After a fight and before forgiveness often comes an apology. But saying “I’m sorry” comes more easily for some people than it does for others. A new study suggests that specific personality traits offer clues about whether a person is likely to offer a mea culpa.
Psychologist Andrew Howell and his colleagues at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton devised a questionnaire to measure a person’s willingness to beg someone’s pardon. They asked participants to indicate their level of agreement with a series of statements, such as “My continued anger often gets in the way of me apologizing” or “If I think no one will know what I have done, I am likely not to apologize.” The researchers then used the answers to determine every participant’s “proclivity to apologize,” and they cross-referenced these scores with results from a variety of personality assessments.
From the beginning, Howell was confident that people with high marks for compassion and agreeability would be willing apologizers—and the study results confirmed his hypothesis. But the experiment also turned up some surprising traits of the unrepentant.
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