From Scientific American:
Bank chiefs, oil company executives and louche politicians seem as allergic to admitting guilt as the public is eager to extract contritions from them. If sometimes we seem to scrutinize people more for their failure to say, “I'm sorry,” than for the transgressions themselves, it is partly due to the cultural wisdom that an apology is the first step in mending a broken relationship. But how far does an apology really go in smoothing things over? Not as far as people think, suggests new research published in the January issue of Psychological Science.
“The expectations for an apology to make us feel better and even forget about the bad things that have happened are overestimated,” says study co-author David De Cremer of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. After having a wrong committed against them people who imagined receiving an apology were more satisfied than people who actually got one, the study found.