Explaining Our Sins: Factors Influencing Offender Accounts and Anticipated Victim Responses

Marti Hope Gonzales, Debra J. Manning, Julie A. Haugen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Two studies examined the effects of offender blameworthiness, consequence severity, and offender gender on written accounts provided after a hypothetical predicament. Participants imagined themselves as the offending party in a predicament and provided written accounts after their victims' reproach. Accounts were coded using Schönbach's (1980) account taxonomy. Study 1 results showed that although concessionary strategies were the most prevalent overall, they were more prevalent for more blameworthy offenses than less blameworthy offenses. Women's accounts were more complex than men's, especially for more blameworthy offenses. In Study 2, in which 3 levels of blameworthiness were used, offenders proffered significantly more concessions after negligent acts than after either accidental or intentional acts, producing a curvilinear pattern. Again, accounts of men and women differed, with men proffering fewer and less complex concessions and more lies than did women. Deviations from politeness theory predictions are explained by reference to face-saving tensions inherent in social predicaments, tensions absent in less problematic social encounters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)958-971
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1992


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