Why women apologise more

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, found that women tend to apologise more compared to the opposite sex but it doesn’t mean that men are reluctant to admit wrongdoing.

It’s just that men have a higher threshold for what they think warrants reparation, the scientists said.

When the researchers looked at the number of apologies relative to the number of offences the participants perceived they had committed, they saw no differences between the genders.

“Men aren’t actively resisting apologising because they think it will make them appear weak or because they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions,” said study researcher Karina Schumann, a doctoral student in social psychology at the university.
“It seems to be that when they think they’ve done something wrong they do apologise just as frequently as when women think they’ve done something wrong. It’s just that they think they’ve done fewer things wrong,” Schumann was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

The findings might have implications for how men and women communicate with each other, she said, adding that their study did not find any evidence to back the assumption that women are the more apologetic sex.

Schumann and her colleagues conducted two studies to see if genders do indeed differ in how often they apologise, and if so, why this might be. In the first study, 33 university students in the age group of 18 to 44 years kept an online dairy for 12 days documenting whether they apologised or did something they thought required an apology, even if they didn’t actually say they were sorry.

They also kept track of how often they felt someone had committed an offencive act against them that warranted an apology.

Women apologised more and reported committing more offencive acts, but both men and women apologised about 81 per cent of the time when they deemed their actions offencive.

Men as victims

Men were also less likely to report being victims of wrongdoing. This led the researchers to investigate whether men are just not offended as easily, and less likely to think they’ve done something objectionable.

In the second study, 120 undergraduates rated how severe they thought a particular offencive was. For instance, they had to imagine they woke their friend up late at night, and because of the sleep disturbance, the friend did poorly on an interview the next day.
Women rated the offences as more severe than men did, and women were also more likely to say the friend deserved an apology.

The studies, published in the journal Psychological Science, were small and involved only university students, so the findings might not be applicable to all men and women in general, the researchers said.

Recognising that men and women may perceive situations differently may help the genders to get along, they said.

“Neither men nor women are wrong when they disagree about whether or not an offence has occurred or whether or not an apology is desired,” Schumann said. “It’s just that they have different perceptions of an event that has occurred between them.”

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