From the Mediation Matters Blog of Steve Mehta.
In mediation, there are frequent occasions where a party may feel genuine remorse and apologize for his or her actions. However, in the cynical world of litigation, everyone doubts when the other side acts remorseful. How can you tell when a person genuinely feels remorse? Canadian researchers think they have the answer.
Leanne ten Brinke and colleagues discovered that when people are faking remorse, they giveaway “tells.” Signs of fake remorse include:
More emotions in a shorter period
Emotional mood swings (the researchers term “emotional turbulence”)
Speaking with greater hesitation
The researchers analyzed nearly 300,000 frames of taped interviews to investigate the tells. They found that people who displayed false remorse displayed more happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, surprise, and contempt — than those who were genuinely sorry.
The researchers found that people who were genuinely remorseful did not often swing directly from positive to negative emotions, but went through neutral emotions first. In contrast, those who were deceiving the researchers made more frequent direct transitions between positive and negative emotions, with fewer displays of neutral emotions in between. In addition, during fake remorse, people hesitated more in their speech patterns.
By its own admission the study is limited in scope. However the discovery regarding emotional states being tells of remorse is fascinating and requires further observation before we can set it into reality.
ten Brinke L et al (2011). Crocodile tears: facial, verbal and body language behaviours associated with genuine and fabricated remorse. Law and Human Behavior; DOI 10.1007/s10979-011-9265-5
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