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Don’t Say You’re Sorry Unless You Mean It: Pricing apologies to achieve credibility

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  • Mungan, Murat C.
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    Abstract

    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, then the optimality of pricing apologies depends on a trade-off between achieving credibility and increasing such rehabilitative and palliative benefits.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal International Review of Law and Economics.

    Volume (Year): 32 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 178-187

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:32:y:2012:i:1:p:178-187

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/irle

    Related research

    Keywords: Apology; Crime and deterrence; Remorse; Optimal sanctions;

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    1. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1984. "The optimal use of fines and imprisonment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 89-99, June.
    2. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
    3. Innes, Robert, 2001. "Violator Avoidance Activities and Self-Reporting in Optimal Law Enforcement," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 239-56, April.
    4. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1991. "Optimal Law Enforcement with Self-Reporting of Behavior," NBER Working Papers 3822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Steven Shavell & A. Mitchell Polinsky, 2000. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 45-76, March.
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    7. Michael W. Toffel & Jodi L. Short, 2011. "Coming Clean and Cleaning Up: Does Voluntary Self-Reporting Indicate Effective Self-Policing?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(3), pages 609 - 649.
    8. Innes, Robert, 1999. "Remediation and self-reporting in optimal law enforcement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 379-393, June.
    9. Innes, Robert, 2000. "Self-Reporting in Optimal Law Enforcement When Violators Have Heterogeneous Probabilities of Apprehension," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 287-300, January.
    10. Shavell, Steven, 1990. "Deterrence and the Punishment of Attempts," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 435-66, June.
    11. Kaplow, Louis, 1990. "A note on the optimal use of nonmonetary sanctions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 245-247, July.
    12. Mungan Murat C, 2010. "A Note on the Effects of State-Dependent Benefits on Optimal Law Enforcement," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1), pages 97-106, May.
    13. Shavell, Steven, 1987. "The Optimal Use of Nonmonetary Sanctions as a Deterrent," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 584-92, September.
    14. Mungan, Murat C., 2011. "Welfare enhancing regulation exemptions," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 249-255.
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