The offense-apology-forgiveness cycle is a draining, regimented ritual for public figures. Just in the past few weeks, Benedict Cumberbatch made an ill-conceived comment about race, referring to black actors as “colored”; apologized; and was (mostly) forgiven. Then there’s Brian Williams, and others with such charged pasts that new offenses and new apologies hardly seem to move the dial at all, like when Kanye West “upstaged” Beck at the Grammys. Below, our best grab bag of insights from social science about forgiveness theater.
1.The scientific literature on forgiveness only dates back to 1989, amazingly. But some researchers suggest we’re seeing more examples of public figures seeking forgiveness lately because we’re becoming more aware of the importance of seeking reconciliation.