Why is it so hard to say sorry?

T. A. Han, L. M. Pereira, F. C. Santos, T. Lenaerts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


When making a mistake, individuals are willing to apologize to secure further cooperation, even if the apology is costly. Similarly, individuals arrange commitments to guarantee that an action such as a cooperative one is in the others' best interest, and thus will be carried out to avoid eventual penalties for commitment failure. Hence, both apology and commitment should go side by side in behavioral evolution. Here we discuss our work published in [6], wherein we study the relevance of a combination of those two strategies in the context of the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma (IPD). We show that apologizing acts are rare in non-committed interactions, especially whenever cooperation is very costly, and that arranging prior commitments can considerably increase the frequency of such behavior. In addition, we show that with or without commitments, apology resolves conflicts only if it is sincere, i.e. costly enough. Most interestingly, our model predicts that individuals tend to use much costlier apology in committed relationships than otherwise, because it helps better identify free-riders such as fake committers.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBelgian/Netherlands Artificial Intelligence Conference 2013
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes
Event25th Benelux Conference on Artificial Intelligence - Delft, Netherlands
Duration: 7 Nov 20138 Nov 2013

Publication series

NameBelgian/Netherlands Artificial Intelligence Conference
ISSN (Print)1568-7805


Conference25th Benelux Conference on Artificial Intelligence
Abbreviated titleBNAIC 2013

Cite this