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Allowing the victim to draw a line in history: Intergroup apology effectiveness as a function of collective autonomy support

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European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on


We tested whether intergroup apology effectiveness increases when the apology is collective autonomy supportive (i.e., victimized group members are told they have the choice to accept or reject the apology). In Experiment 1, university students who received a collective autonomy supportive (compared to a collective autonomy unsupportive or basic) apology for derogatory remarks made by a rival university perceived the apology as more empathic. This, in turn, heightened intergroup forgiveness. Experiment 2 replicated and extended this effect in the context of the friendly fire killing of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan by the United States. Canadians in the collective autonomy supportive condition felt more empowered and were less critical of the apology. Sequential mediation analyses revealed that collective autonomy support had an indirect effect on intergroup forgiveness through empowerment and empathic support of the apology. Findings suggest the apology–forgiveness link strengthens when the victimized group's collective autonomy is explicitly acknowledged.