Political apologies have been theorized to play an important role in healing and reconciliation processes in post-conflict settings. Whether they actually fulfil this function, however, remains unclear as the voices and perspectives of victim communities have largely been underrepresented in research. To address this, we examined the role of apologies that were offered for the El Mozote massacre (El Salvador), the Jeju 4.3 massacres (Republic of Korea) and Bloody Sunday (United Kingdom), according to members of these communities and the broader public. Although we anticipated that victim community members should find the apology more valuable and meaningful and should, therefore, be more positive about its role in healing and reconciliation processes, we found that this varies across countries. This variation could be explained by people's trust in the country's institutions. Across the samples, we found that the apology was seen as a relatively important gesture. For the apology to be perceived as impactful, however, it had to be seen as a meaningful (i.e. sincere) gesture. Our findings suggest that apologies have a role to play in the aftermath of human rights violations, but that it is essential to take the broader context into account.
Sagherian‐Dickey, T., Schaafsma, J., Zoodsma, M., Cho, H. J., Dinnick, I., Kim, J., …Yáñez de la Cruz, M. S. (2023). Meaningless gestures or pathway to healing and reconciliation? Comparing the perspectives on political apologies in victim and non‐victim communities in El Salvador, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom. British Journal of Social Psychology, 62(1), 414-430. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12556