Some Personalities Are More Likely To Apologize Than Others

04/02/2015 08:03 am ET | Updated Apr 02, 2015
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science of us
By Melissa Dahl
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There are those healthy, well-adjusted people who are quick to swallow their pride and apologize when they've done something wrong. And then there are those for whom saying sorry does not come so easily. Recently, a team of Australian and Canadian researchers published the results of a study in which they sought to figure out which personality types are more likely to apologize than others. The new research was published online recently in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Patrick D. Dunlop of the University of Western Australia and his team recruited 139 adults, with an average age of about 31; the researchers also asked those individuals to recruit a friend for the study, like a romantic partner or a work colleague -- someone they'd known for at least a year. Each of the 139 individuals took a personality test, and their personalities were also rated by the friends they'd recruited -- and this is important because research suggests our friends are usually better than we are at accurately rating our own personalities. The study participants also answered a survey with questions about how likely (or unlikely) they were to apologize in certain situations.

After analyzing the survey responses, the researchers found that people who scored high in conscientiousness and honesty/humility were also more likely to say they apologized more frequently. (This study used the HEXACO model of personality, which stands for honesty/humility, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness.) The findings make intuitive sense -- conscientious people tend to be efficient and well organized, so perhaps their organization skills even help them offer expedient apologies; it's also not surprising that honest people would be more likely to own up to something they'd done wrong.

But, as the researchers point out, although psychologists are starting to uncover what sorts of personalities are more likely to forgive, the flip side of that scenario -- the personality of the apologizer -- is not as well understood. One last interesting tidbit from this study: Agreeable people were less likely to offer quick apologies, in a finding that surprised the researchers. They don't offer much in the way of an explanation for this in their paper, either, something I'm sure they're very sorry about.

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