While there is growing evidence that quick recovery from stress is health-protective, relatively little is known about what factors affect recovery rates. We tested whether recovery from anger can be diffused with apologies. 184 participants performed a stress task involving verbal harassment and apologies. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: non-harassed control, good apology, pseudo-apology, or no apology. Measures of blood pressure and heart rate were taken at baseline, task and recovery periods. Participants scoring high in trait hostility displayed faster systolic blood pressure recovery when they received a genuine apology, but recovered more slowly when they received a pseudo-apology or no apology. Apologies did not influence subjective anger ratings. It was concluded that apologies may accelerate cardiovascular anger recovery among those with hostile personality predispositions.
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Script #1: “Look [participant name], you’re always subtracting way too slow. You’ve got to do it much faster. Continue where you stopped.”
Script #2: “[participant name], you’re still too slow and also inaccurate. This can’t be your best. Now try it again from where you left off.”
Script #3: “You’re obviously not good enough at doing this, now try harder. Keep going!”
Good Apology: “Listen [participant name], I’m really sorry for being so rude to you a few minutes ago. If I upset you while you were counting that's totally my fault. I was speaking to you that way on purpose as part of the experiment. I’m usually more courteous and professional. But I do feel bad about this. I’m sorry.”
Pseudo-apology: “You seemed a little agitated there. Well, I’m sorry if you got upset during the task, but it's important for you to go really fast, or the experiment isn't going to work.”
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Anderson, J., Linden, W. & Habra, M. Influence of Apologies and Trait Hostility on Recovery from Anger. J Behav Med 29, 347–358 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-006-9062-7
- cardiovascular recovery
- blood pressure
- heart rate