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J Appl Psychol. 2003 Jun;88(3):444-58.

To justify or excuse?: A meta-analytic review of the effects of explanations.

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  • 1Department of Management, Warrington College of Business Administration, University of Florida, Gainesville 32611-7165, USA.


The authors used R. Folger and R. Cropanzano's (1998, 2001) fairness theory to derive predictions about the effects of explanation provision and explanation adequacy on justice judgments and cooperation, retaliation, and withdrawal responses. The authors also used the theory to identify potential moderators of those effects, including the type of explanation (justification vs. excuse), outcome favorability, and study context. The authors' predictions were tested by using meta-analyses of 54 independent samples. The results showed strong effects of explanations on both the justice and response variables. Moreover, explanations were more beneficial when they took the form of excuses rather than justifications, when they were given after unfavorable outcomes, and when they were given in contexts with instrumental, relational, and moral implications.

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