Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in General Psychology (MAGP)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Dominik Guess

Second Advisor

Dr. Emily Zitek

Rights Statement

Department Chair

Dr. Michael Toglia

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick


Three experiments examined how a transgressor’s response, once accused of a wrongdoing, alters other’s perceptions of transgressor. Study 1 investigated how a baseball player’s response to steroid usage accusations affected fans’ perceptions of him. Participants thought of the athlete more positively when he apologized for his drug usage as compared to when he denied it or provided no comment. Study 2 examined if the effects of a transgressor’s response are moderated by the transgressor’s reputation. Participants were predicted to prefer apologies over denials if they had a pre-existing positive view of the transgressor (i.e., the person was a friend and not a stranger or someone known for being lazy). Results showed that, similar to Study 1, participants respected the transgressor and thought he handled the situation better when he apologized instead of denied the transgression, but contrary to predictions, the transgressor’s reputation did not have an effect on participants’ reactions to a transgressor’s responses. Study 3 examined whether feelings of schadenfreude (i.e., positive affect resulting from another’s misfortune) mitigated negative feelings toward a transgressor who denied the transgression. After participants witnessed a transgression, they then had to work with the transgressor on a task. When the transgressor performed the task incompetently, participants were predicted to feel schadenfreude and therefore not feel it was as important to hear the transgressor admit to his wrongdoing. Results indicated that participants felt more negatively toward an incompetent transgressor than one who contributed equally to the task, regardless of whether he denied or apologized for the transgression. Furthermore, contrary to the results of Studies 1 and 2, participants did not have increased positive feelings toward transgressors who apologized. Overall, these studies provide evidence that apologizing and expressing ownership for a transgression is the best method to respond with to facilitate relationship repair within multiple situations.