Relationship value promotes costly apology-making: Testing the valuable relationships hypothesis from the perpetrator's perspective

Yohsuke Ohtsubo, Ayano Yagi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


The valuable relationships hypothesis posits that people are inclined to reconcile with their valuable-relationship partners. Focusing on a particular type of credible conciliatory signal (i.e., costly apology), the present study tested this hypothesis from the perpetrator's perspective. In studies 1 and 2, after imagining that they had committed an interpersonal transgression against one of their real friends, participants (N = 529 and 311 in studies 1 and 2, respectively) rated their willingness to incur a cost in order to apologize to the victim. Apology cost was operationalized as "canceling plans to make an apology as soon as possible" in study 1, and as "offering compensation" in study 2. The results showed that the instrumentality of the partner to achieving the participants' goals would increase their willingness to make a costly apology, after controlling for the participants' sex, version of the transgression scenario, closeness to the victim, and expected forgiveness of the victim. To ensure the external validity of this finding, studies 3 and 4 asked participants to recall one of their interpersonal transgression experiences, and to report whether they had offered compensation for it (N=. 190 and 224 in studies 3 and 4, respectively). Study 3 confirmed the hypothesis, while study 4 did not directly support it. However, study 4 did show that participants were more willing to reconcile with their valuable partners. Taken together, these results indicate that the valuable relationships hypothesis applies not only to victims, but also to their perpetrators as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-239
Number of pages8
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015 May 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Compensation
  • Costly apology
  • Costly signaling theory
  • Reconciliation
  • Valuable relationships hypothesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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