Excuses as a method of impression management: Toward an understanding of the determinants of excuse effectiveness

Date of Completion

January 1994


Psychology, Social




Four studies examined some determinants of excuse effectiveness. Timing of the excuse relative to the excuse-relevant behavior (i.e., anticipatory, post-behavior volunteered, and post-behavior requested excuses), the quality of the excuse (Weiner, 1992), the severity of the excuse-relevant behavior, the status of the excuse-giver relative to the excuse-recipient, and the necessity of the excuse were manipulated using scenarios describing common social predicaments. Excuse effectiveness was defined in terms of the following evaluations: perceived excuse honesty, negativity of the behavior, the excuse-giver's blameworthiness and dispositional qualities, and the excuse-recipient's likely responses to the excuse (e.g., affect and future behavior toward the excuse-giver).^ The results of Study 1 revealed that, given the same excuse, audience evaluations were more positive when the excuse was offered before as opposed to after the excuse-relevant behavior and when the excuse-relevant behavior was less severe. Study 2 replicated the general lack of differentiation between the two types of post-behavior excuses obtained in Study 1. The results obtained in Study 3 suggest that high quality excuses are more effective than low quality excuses (Weiner, 1992). Although Study 4 failed to provide convincing evidence regarding the role of status differences, the results did reveal that unnecessary excuses (ingratiation attempts) were not effective in creating a positive impression.^ The present research also provided suggestive evidence regarding a proposed model of audience judgments following an excuse, a model that emphasizes the role of perceived excuse honesty. Specifically, the impact of the examined factors on perceived honesty generally was replicated across several other dependent measures. Thus, judgments related to perceived honesty may mediate reactions to an excuse. The results are discussed in terms of their relation to the proposed model and suggestions for future research are offered with an emphasis on the model's potential as a general framework for research on excuse effectiveness. ^