Exceptions to the Rule: The Effects of Remorse, Status, and Gender on Decision Making1


  • 1

    This study was supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (SBR 93496300). We would like to thank Stephanie Malkowski, Tamara Schuster, Pamela Laramore, and Mark Rhoden for their assistance with data collection and analysis.

2 Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Keith E. Niedermeier, Department of Marketing, 707N Business Administration Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802-3007. e-mail: ken4@psu.edu


One of several general rules suggested by past work is that it is advantageous to exhibit remorse when one has committed a transgression. A pair of experiments searched for the boundary conditions of this rule. In Experiment 1, mock jurors rated a remorseful defendant as more guilty when the law was fair than when the law was unfair. In contrast, an unremorseful defendant was viewed as equally guilty under both fairness levels. Study 2 conceptually replicated this result, and revealed a 3-way interaction among remorse, status, and gender. It is argued that these findings illustrate the importance of violation of expectations on evaluation and judgment, inside the courtroom and elsewhere.