Beyond compensation? Examining the role of apologies in the restoration of victims’ needs in simulated tort cases.

Tort law currently debates the value of facilitating apology to enhance the restoration of victims’ nonmaterial needs, and to promote dispute resolution. However, the extent to which apology can augment these outcomes beyond conventional, monetary reparations is not yet clear. The present research aimed to provide some first insights into this question, by means of 2 experimental studies conducted among community members recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk; Study 1) and Prolific (Study 2). Participants imagined a scenario in which they became victims of a traffic accident. Study 1 (N = 81, 42 men, 39 women, Mage = 35.90) manipulated the resulting harm (personal injury or property loss) to examine which needs participants experienced, and what remedies (apology, compensation) they desired. Factor analysis revealed (nonmaterial) needs for interpersonal treatment, responsibility taking, closure, and punishment, and (material) needs for compensation; these needs were as prominent after property loss as after personal injury. Nonmaterial needs predicted greater desire for apology (and not compensation). Study 2 (N = 485, 286 men, 199 women, Mage = 31.03) examined how these remedies impacted the satisfaction of these needs and dispute resolution by manipulating apology (no apology, apology), compensation level (partial, approximate, or exact), and harm within the same scenario. Apologies enhanced the restoration of participants’ nonmaterial needs. However, settlement remained mostly contingent on compensation: (modest) effects of apology were restricted to partial compensation. These findings, therefore, imply that apologies could augment victims’ restoration after torts, but may be limited as a catalyst for settlement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)