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Saying sorry can influence jurors

india Updated: Aug 25, 2009 20:15 IST

Apologising for negative outcomes, a practice common with children, may lead to more favourable verdicts in court, according to a new study.

Rick Warne and Robert Cornell of George Mason and Oklahoma State Universities (OSU), both assistant accounting professors, found that remedial tactics like apologising or first-person justification can result in lower frequencies of negligence verdicts in cases against auditors when compared to a control group receiving no remedial tactic.

"We found that apologies reduce the jurors' need to assign blame to the auditor for any negative outcomes to the client," says Warne.

"It also appears that a first-person justification influences the jurors impression that the auditor's actions were reasonable and in accordance with professional standards."

The researchers administered several versions of a mock trial involving a lawsuit against an auditor whose actions had negative consequences on a client.

In the scenario utilised by the researchers, the auditor performed an appropriate audit, yet the audited company eventually went into bankruptcy.

The researchers examined whether a defendant making an apology, offering a justification, utilising both techniques or remaining silent led to the most favourable verdicts.

Research in psychology, management and medicine concludes that remedial tactics are effective when expressed directly to injured parties, said an OSU release.

However, Cornell and Warne's research expands upon prior findings by examining the effects remedial tactics have on jurors who are indirectly involved and cannot directly forgive the accused.

The results of the study will be available in a forthcoming issue of Contemporary Accounting Research.