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Excuses, excuses: A meta-analytic review of how mitigating information can change aggression and an exploration of moderating variables


Correspondence to: Christopher P. Barlett, Department of Psychology, Gettysburg College, Campus Box 0407, 300 N. Washington Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325. E-mail:


Research in the aggression domain has been mixed regarding the effectiveness of using mitigating information (e.g., excuses, apologies) to reduce aggressive behavior after a provocation. Aggression theory (e.g., general aggression model) posits that mitigating information may cues re-appraisal processes to potentially change aggressive behavior. If re-appraisal processes are engaged, aggressive behavior is likely to decrease. Currently, no published study has synthesized the literature to test such theoretical claims. The current study used meta-analysis to test this effect and examine the influence of several possible moderators. Results showed a significant negative effect size, suggesting that mitigating information does indeed reduce aggressive behavior after a provocation. However, these results were qualified by several significant moderators. Results showed that mitigating information reduces aggression when (a) the information did not come from an apology, (b) the non-apologetic mitigating information was high quality, and c) the provocation was mild (vs. strong). Theoretical extensions are discussed. Aggr. Behav. 39:472–481, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.