“When you refuse to apologize, it actually makes you feel more empowered,” he said. “That power and control seems to translate into greater feelings of self-worth.”

Ironically, Okimoto said, people who refused to apologize ended up with boosted feelings of integrity.

The researchers are not suggesting that refusing to apologize is a useful life strategy: Okimoto himself said he has little trouble apologizing. The interpersonal benefits of apologizing are huge, and an apology can renew bonds not only between people but also between countries.

Okimoto believes the research, in fact, may provide a clue on how best to get people to apologize.