Posted by Jay Livingston
This year, twenty-four students joined AKD, the sociology honor society.
Our speaker was Karen Cerulo of Rutgers, who talked about her latest paper (co-written with Montclair’s Janet Ruane), “Confessions of the Rich and Famous.”*
Apologies are built on different components – victim, offender, act, context. What distinguishes one apology from another is not just the selection of components but their sequential structure. We hear a different story depending on how the segments are arranged, as Cerulo/Ruane discovered when they looked at public opinion polls for estimates of which strategies were most effective.
The short answer is: apologize, don’t explain. It’s about the victim, it’s not about you except for your mortification and remorse. Gov. Christie was claiming that he was the victim – his staff had “embarrassed and humiliated” him. New Jerseyites did not care, just as basketball fans in Cleveland did not care if LeBron explained why moving to Miami was good for LeBron (“But I knew this opportunity was once in a lifetime.”)
This research was limited to celebrities, but you have to wonder if apologies among us mere mortals work the same way.
*In introducing the speaker, it occurred to me that for many in the audience the title of the paper would have absolutely no ring of familiarity.
** The sample of 183 celebrity apologies went only through 2012 and thus missed the Christie statement.