White discusses the socio-psychological research that suggests humans invest significant emotional stake in "face"--or their "claimed identity as a competent, intelligent, or moral persons"--and apologize only when they can do so without significant "face threat." Criminal offenders, many of whom are likely to be low on self-determination, may resist apology to victims out of psychological fragility and the psychological need to preserve face rather than lack of remorse. Thus, the criminal-justice system should be cautious about punishing offenders more harshly because they fail to show external remorse--or even when they are openly defiant. This caution should be exercised whether the system explicitly punishes offenders more harshly or implicitly, by giving lighter sentences to those who publicly apologize. Such practices not only risk unfairness in the treatment of equally remorseful offenders but also effectively coerce apologies--which, because they are involuntary, are unlikely to promote healthy psychological growth among offenders and may instead elevate an offender's psychological resistance toward accepting responsibility.
Brent T. White,
Saving Face: The Benefits of Not Saying I’m Sorry,
72 Law and Contemporary Problems
Available at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/lcp/vol72/iss2/21