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Uncommon Knowledge

Apology tours, charity, and more

After realizing that the candy he has been handing out in baskets is actually filled with artificial ingredients, corn syrup, preservatives and other junk, the Easter Bunny decided to apologize. Jillian Michaels, John Legend, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Tom Brady were also part of the official 2013 Easter Bunny Apology Tour. CRAIG ORSINI/UNREAL

The politics of apology tours

While Democrats have been accused of apologizing too much (as in Barack Obama’s alleged “apology tour” overseas), Republicans have the opposite image (as in Donald Trump, or even Mitt Romney, whose book was titled “No Apology”). An international team of researchers surveyed people around the world and, indeed, found that conservatives were less willing to apologize — or to forgive after receiving an apology — even controlling for age, sex, income, education, and religiosity. Also, in an experiment, conservatives in India and the United States were less likely to include apologetic statements when asked to write down what they would tell a neighbor whom they had wronged.


Hornsey, M. et al., “Conservatives Are More Reluctant to Give and Receive Apologies Than Liberals,” Social Psychological and Personality Science (forthcoming).

Point-blank charity

In experiments, people who read about a charitable cause were more willing to donate when told the beneficiaries were geographically close — for instance, in “nearby Guatemala” rather than “faraway Guatemala.” This was true whether the cause involved a foreign country or even just the donor’s alma mater.

Touré-Tillery, M. & Fishbach, A., “Too Far to Help: The Effect of Perceived Distance on the Expected Impact and Likelihood of Charitable Action,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).

Demotions can be long-term promotions

Sometimes, working in the minor leagues is a better career move than working in the major leagues. A study of soccer players in England compared those on teams that barely made the cutoff to stay in the Premier League with those whose teams just missed the cutoff and were demoted to a lower league. The latter group of players got more chances to be starters, because dropping to a lower tier made it harder for their teams to recruit better players. Five to seven years later, the demoted players had moved to better leagues and were earning more than those not demoted. This effect was concentrated among younger and less experienced players.


Gong, J. et al., “Choosing the Pond: On-the-Job Experience and Long-Run Career Outcomes,” Management Science (forthcoming).

America’s most exploited companies

An executive who gets an accolade will probably ask for more money and power. A study found that an increased ranking on Fortune magazine’s list of America’s Most Admired Companies resulted in a drop in stock price, while a decreased ranking had the opposite effect. Investors may have anticipated what the study also found: Following an increased ranking, CEOs got seven-figure pay hikes, were less likely to be fired, and were more likely to make acquisitions that hurt stock prices.

Cheng, Y. et al., “When Is Good News Bad and Vice Versa? The Fortune Rankings of America’s Most Admired Companies,” Journal of Corporate Finance (April 2017).

Friends heal faster

In an experiment in New Zealand, participants were paired up so they could get to know each other through a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they repeatedly applied tape to their partner’s skin to lightly damage it, as detected by a sensor that measures water loss through the skin. Compared with a control group of unpaired participants, the paired participants exhibited faster skin recovery, especially if they liked their partner more.

Robinson, H. et al., “The Role of Social Closeness During Tape Stripping to Facilitate Skin Barrier Recovery: Preliminary Findings,” Health Psychology (forthcoming).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at