The Social Goals of Excuses: Self-Serving Attributions or Politeness Strategies1

Authors

  • Christopher O. Fraser

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    1. Monash University Churchill, Australia
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Chris Fraser, Department of Psychology, Monash University-Gippsland Campus, Churchill, Victoria 3842, Australia. e-mail: Chris.Fraser@sci.monash.edu.au.
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  • 1

    I would like to thank Margaret Foddy, Meg Rohan, and Kerry Bennett for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Chris Fraser, Department of Psychology, Monash University-Gippsland Campus, Churchill, Victoria 3842, Australia. e-mail: Chris.Fraser@sci.monash.edu.au.

Abstract

Participants provided examples of explanations given as excuses, or withheld in favor of a false excuse, both for failing to keep a social contract and for rejecting a social invitation. Results show that the likelihood of an explanation being given in social-contract situations was best predicted by intentionality and controllability; while in social-rejection situations, the most important factor was to avoid personal reasons (related to the recipient). Excuse-givers were even willing to blame themselves to do this. These results are discussed in terms of the need to extend attributional categories beyond traditional self-serving functions to include social goals. such as the recipient saving face, to provide an adequate account of how excuse-making varies across different types of social predicaments.

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