Partial Apologies

Here is a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that shows that partial confessions/apologies may actually increase the guilt a person experiences. The reason, it seems, is that guilt is created by the lying implicit in the partial confession and this is added to the guilt felt over the original transgression. It's unlikely that this will apply in all such situations and a full confession--depending on the situation--may actually increase the interpersonal problems. We see this on Maury and Jerry Springer and similar shows where a guest confesses to, say, a one-time affair but the lie detector reveals multiple affairs. The confessor may indeed experience added guilt for lying but this is likely to be minor compared to the interpersonal problems the couple now confronts. So, while partial confessions may create added guilt, this does not mean that we should advise total confession in all situations. This "added guilt" is just one additional factor that needs to be considered when thinking about and framing apologies or confessions.

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