Government Apologies for Historical Injustices

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Abstract

Scholars from various disciplines suggest that government apologies for historical injustices fulfill important psychological goals. After reviewing psychological literature that contributes to this discussion, we present a list of elements that political apologies should contain to be acceptable to both members of the victimized minority and the nonvictimized majority. Content coding of a list of government apologies revealed that many, but not all, include most of these elements. We then reviewed research demonstrating that political apologies that contain most of these facets are favorably evaluated, but especially by members of the nonvictimized majority. Next, we examined how the demands of victimized minorities affect their satisfaction with government apologies that lack some components. We conclude by discussing the implications of our analysis for when and how governments should apologize.

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