Two Professors Research on How Public Figures Avoid Genuine Apologies

Published: October 07, 2018 | Read Time: 1 minutes

Headshot of Professor Matt BartonHeadshot of Professor Kevin SteinProfessors Kevin Stein and Matthew Barton of the Department of Communication at Southern Utah University published this week a comprehensive analysis of apologies offered by public figures to understand the ways people use language to take or avoid responsibility for harmful behavior, such as infidelity, domestic violence, and deception.

The authors discovered that people are often credited for offering some form of apology when the language they use suggests a lack of remorse. Public figures frequently apologize by saying they “regret the incident occurred” or that they are sorry that “people misinterpreted” their behavior rather than expressing genuine remorse. They also soften their language by using terms such as “mistake” or “failure” instead of stronger terms to demonstrate they know what they did wrong.

In today’s viral news climate where there are seemingly dozens of apologies surfacing every week, the data from the study is useful in helping people understand the subtext of these public “apologies.” The study suggests that we should stop classifying these non-apologies as authentic expressions of remorse.

If you would like more information, call Dr. Kevin Stein at (435) 586-7874, email him at, or consult his web archive of prominent apologies at the Public Apology Central website.

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