Contrition in the Courtroom: Do Apologies Affect Adjudication?
Jeffrey J. Rachlinski
Cornell Law School
Vanderbilt University - Law School
Andrew J. Wistrich
California Central District Court
July 17, 2013
Cornell Law Review, Vol. 98, No. 1189, 2013
Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-90
Apologies usually help to repair social relationships and appease aggrieved parties. Previous research has demonstrated that in legal settings, apologies influence how litigants and juries evaluate both civil and criminal defendants. Judges, however, routinely encounter apologies offered for instrumental reasons, such as to reduce a civil damage award or fine, or to shorten a criminal sentence. Frequent exposure to insincere apologies might make judges suspicious of or impervious to apologies. In a series of experimental studies with judges as research participants, we find that in some criminal settings, apologies can induce judges to be more lenient, but overall, apologizing to a judge is often unhelpful and can even be harmful.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 57
Date posted: July 18, 2013 ; Last revised: October 18, 2013