Apologies by political leaders to the citizens of a victimized country have attracted attention in recent years as a means of improving relations between nations. Existing studies have identified several elements that make such an apology effective, but from the politician's point of view, it is difficult to issue a statement containing all these elements, and they must then be chosen while considering domestic backlash and relations with countries other than the victimized one. However, it is not sufficiently clear how the victimized country's citizens weigh the elements of the apology when they accept it and how the nature of the harm caused changes this. Therefore, we conducted a survey experiment in Japan, adopting a conjoint design using scenarios depicting fictional US presidential apologies to Japan. Our experiment demonstrated three attributes particularly regarded as important in determining whether people would accept an apology: the reparation amount, whether the apology was official (formality), and the voluntariness of the apology. However, when something that people consider “sacred” has been harmed, reparation proposals are counterproductive, and the optimal apology form may depend on the nature of the harm.
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