Murat Mungan, ‘Don’t Say You’re Sorry Unless You Mean it’

Remorse and apologies by offenders have not been rigorously analyzed in the law and economics literature. This is perhaps because apologies are regarded as ‘cheap talk’ and are deemed to be non-informative of an individual’s conscious state. In this paper, I develop a formal framework in which one can analyze remorse and apologies. I argue that legal procedures can be designed to price apologies, such that only truly remorseful individuals apologize. Hence, apologies would not be mere ‘cheap talk’ and could send correct signals regarding an offender’s true conscious state, making them credible. This will lead victims, upon receiving apologies, to forgive offenders more frequently. Moreover, pricing apologies does not negatively impact the possibility of achieving optimal deterrence. An (arguably negative) effect of pricing apologies is its elimination of insincere apologies. If it is assumed that apologies, even if insincere, carry rehabilitative and/or palliative benefits, than the optimality of pricing apologies depends on a trade-off between achieving credibility and increasing such rehabilitative and palliative benefits.

Mungan, Murat C., Don’t Say You’re Sorry Unless You Mean it (August 25, 2011).

First posted 2011-09-03 13:34:41

Leave a Reply