Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in General Psychology (MAGP)



First Advisor

Dr. Linda Foley


A correlational study investigated the nature of excuses, including the relationship of excuse complexity, uniqueness, frequency, and success to the level of knowledge the recipient has about the excuse giver. Analysis of results from responses of 121 participants to questionnaires describing excuses to employers, teachers, parents, and spouse/boy/girlfriends found that the complexity and uniqueness of excuses vary positively with the knowledge level of the recipient, but only when an unequal power relationship exists between the recipient and the excuse giver. Excuses to recipients with a low personal knowledge level of the excuse giver, such as employers or teachers, tended to be simple in nature, contained a minimum amount of information, and were usually common and frequently occurring. In contrast, excuses to recipients with a high personal knowledge of the excuse giver, such as parents who lived with the participants, tended to be complex in nature, contained significantly larger amounts of information, were generally more specific to the excuse giver and less frequently occurring. Old excuses were used more than new excuses in all contexts. Previously used excuses were also more frequent in low or neutral confidence conditions, and were more likely to be successful. Excuses were more successful to employers or teachers than to parents or spouse/boy girlfriends. Different categories emerged for different recipients of the excuses: the illness category was used most in the work context, and the miscellaneous category was used most in the parent and spouse/boy/girlfriend contexts. The influence of external control, and short and long term intimacy factors on the nature of excuses was discussed.

Included in

Psychology Commons