Who Accepts Responsibility for Their Transgressions?

Abstract

After committing an offense, transgressors can optimize their chances of reconciling with the victim by accepting responsibility.
However, transgressors may be motivated to avoid admitting fault because it can feel threatening to accept blame for harmful
behavior. Who, then, is likely to accept responsibility for a transgression? We examined how implicit theories of personality—whether
people see personality as malleable (incremental theory) or fixed (entity theory)—influence transgressors’ likelihood of accepting
responsibility. We argue that incremental theorists may feel less threatened by accepting responsibility because they are
more likely to view the situation as an opportunity for them to grow as a person and develop their relationship with the victim.
We found support for our predictions across four studies using a combination of real-world and hypothetical offenses, and
correlational and experimental methods. These studies therefore identify an important individual difference factor that can
lead to more effective responses from transgressors.

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