JERUSALEM (CBS) — A new study finds that powerful people who apologize come across as insincere.
According to The Jerusalem Post, researchers from the University of Haifa conducted a series of experiments to study whether a person’s high social status is influential when they issue an apology for a transgression.
“When the apologizer is a senior politician… we are inclined to assume that they are better at controlling their emotions and are using them strategically,” Dr. Arik Cheshin, the study’s co-author, told The Jerusalem Post. “Because we believe that they are trying to achieve something, we perceive them as less sincere in the same situation. The more senior they are, the less authentic their emotions are perceived as being.”
During the study, researchers told participants about a work employee who forged documents, which caused the company to be fined. Researchers showed them pictures of the employee showing happiness, sadness, anger or fear during a meeting. Then the participants watched a video showing the same emotions, but for a different wrongdoing that led to legal problems.
The Jerusalem Post reports that the some of the study’s participants were told that the person involved was a junior employee, while others were told the person was the company’s CEO.
Researchers found that the CEO’s emotions came across as less sincere.
“The assumption is that the CEO has much more to lose, and accordingly has a strong motivation to try to use their emotions to create empathy,” said Cheshin. “Thus, the participants described them as less sincere.”
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.