Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Alfred Allan

Second Advisor

Dr Diane McKillop

Abstract

The restorative justice process involves bringing the offender, their families, the victim and other stakeholders together, to discuss a particular offence and the impact on all those involved (Braithwaite, 2002). The intention of the restorative justice approach is to repair harm and restore relationships through forgiveness and reconciliation (Braithwaite, 2002). One way of achieving forgiveness is through an apology, and it is asserted by researchers that forgiving is significantly increased by an apology if the victim perceives that the apology is sincere, however, the indicators victims used to perceive the wrongdoer as truly sorry were unclear (Allan, Allan, Kaminer, & Stein, 2006; Slocum, 2006). The research conducted by Allan et al. (2006), therefore, highlighted the need to develop an operational definition of an apology, and further, to reveal what components of an apology were required for the victim to perceive sincerity. Slocum's (2006) theory of apology and the authentic apology (AA) model was subsequently developed and suggests victims are more likely to perceive an apology as sincere if it incorporates three core components (affirmation, affect and action) at the self-other end of a focus continuum. The aim of the current research was to use Slocum's (2006) theory in the context of restorative justice by comparing the impact of a self-focussed apology, where the offender is depicted as attempting to ease their own personal distress, to a self-other focussed apology, where the offender is depicted as attempting to address the needs of the victim, as well as their own. Sixty participants were asked to read a hypothetical scenario and apology, and complete a questionnaire. The quantitative data was analysed using chi-square analysis and the qualitative data used to further explore and interpret the findings. Results supported the hypotheses that when the core components of affect, affirmation and action in the apology have a self-other focus, participants would be more likely to perceive the offender's apology as sincere and would be more likely to accept the apology than when compared to an apology that contained only a self-focus. However, when the core components had a self-other focus, participants were not more likely to forgive the offender, and a tentative exploration of this finding was conducted. It was concluded nonetheless from the present study that the findings of Slocum (2006) are applicable to different contexts and to various offence situations, suggesting the generalisability of the AA theory in research. Further, the findings of the current study increased understanding of the role of the perception of sincerity in the acceptance of apology, specifically in the context of restorative justice, and facilitate a greater understanding of the impact of apology focus on victims. Therefore, the study has important implications for restorative justice, as mediators may be more successful in guiding offenders and victims towards outcomes that address the offence, as well as satisfy the needs of all parties involved.

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