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EU nationals in the UK under pressure due to Brexit: Does an apology help?

project description

In this bachelor thesis project, the goal is to test whether (and what type of) apology given by wrongdoers is perceived as most sincere and appreciated most among members of victimized groups. The idea is to examine this in relation to the Brexit process, which has cast doubts and fear among EU nationals currently living and/or working in the UK about their rights and status after Brexit. For example, leaked information in 2017 about the potential, stricter immigration rules after Brexit in the UK led some EU nationals to leave the UK already, while others feared that they were on the ‘verge of losing everything’ (see link). Although the government has indicated to be committed to “ensuring that all EU citizens living in the UK will still have the right to do so after Brexit”, there are still groups of EU nationals in the UK who might be at risk of failing to secure settled status after Brexit (see link).

The question for this bachelor thesis project, therefore, is to examine whether an apology for these fears and discomforts about the potentially serious negative consequences of Brexit for EU nationals living in the UK can help to improve this situation. Previous research (Giner-Sorolla, Zebel & Kamau, 2018) has indicated that the expression of emotions by wrongdoers when they make an apology can be helpful to bring the apology across. Particularly, wrongdoers who express guilt or shame during their apology for wrongdoing are seen as ‘suffering’ more and feeling more responsible by victims than when the same apology is accompanied by other emotions such as regret. However, the question is whether such apologies are still as helpful and powerful when provided for serious grievances and fear due to the Brexit.

You will conduct a field experiment, sampling (Dutch or German) citizens who are presented with (different versions of) an UK apology for the grievances and fears that EU nationals encounter in light of the Brexit. Part of the necessary materials are available from previous work (Giner-Sorolla et al., 2018).    


Giner-Sorolla, R., Zebel, S., & Kamau, C. (2018). Suffering and responsibility-taking inferences explain how victim group members evaluate wrongdoers’ expressions of negative feelings. Manuscript submitted for publication; available on request (send email to


Please contact Jan Gutteling ( when you are interested in this assignment.