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Remorse is an emotional expression of personal regret felt by a person after he or she has committed an act which they deem to be shameful, hurtful, or violent. Remorse is closely allied to guilt and self-directed resentment. When a person regrets an earlier action or failure to act, it may be because of remorse or in response to various other consequences, including being punished for the act or omission. In a legal context, the perceived remorse of an offender is assessed by Western justice systems during trials, sentencing, parole hearings, and in restorative justice.

A person who is incapable of feeling remorse is often labeled a sociopath (US) or psychopath (UK) - formerly a DSM III condition. Some researchers have suggested that this lack is more characteristic of the INTJ personality, a highly rational temperament that relies very little on emotion, but the scientific worth and psychological accuracy of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test have been strongly questioned. In general, a person needs to be unable to feel fear, as well as remorse in order to develop psychopathic traits. Legal and business professions such as insurance have done research on the expression of remorse via apologies, primarily because of the potential litigation and financial implications.


Two studies on apologizing are The Five Languages of Apology by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, and On Apology by Aaron Lazare. These studies indicate that effective apologies that express remorse typically include a detailed account of the offense; acknowledgment of the hurt or damage done; acceptance of the responsibility for, and ownership of, the act or omission; and an explanation that recognizes one's role. As well, apologies usually include a statement or expression of regret, humility or remorse; a request for forgiveness; and an expression of a credible commitment to change or a promise that it will not happen again. Apologies may also include some form of restitution, compensation or token gesture in line with the damage that you caused. When an apology is delayed, for instance if a friend has been wronged and the offending party does not apologize, the perception of the offense can compound over time. This is sometimes known as compounding remorse. Compunction refers to the act of actively expressing remorse, usually requiring the remorseful individual to physically approach the person to whom they are expressing regret.

In marketing

In a business and marketing context, "buyer's remorse" is the concept of regretting a purchase after buying it. From a business perspective, the problem with "buyer's remorse" is that a consumer's fear of regretting having made a purchase may them delay or avoid making these major purchases, which can reduce the sales of companies selling these products. Customers' fears of ending up with "buyer's remorse" is typically much greater for expensive purchases, such as appliances, cars, and houses. Customers' fears range from the mild worry that the item in question may not meet all of their needs (or their families' needs) to the fear that they will end up buying a mechanically or structurally unsound "lemon". To allay consumers' fears, and encourage them to make "big ticket" purchases, companies have used a variety of techniques, such as offering "try-before-you-buy" programs, warranties, money-back guarantees, and "30-day exchange" programs.

"Try-before-you-buy" programs range from relatively short trials, as in the case of 30-minute test drives in the automobile market, to several-week loans for other types of products. With high-end home audio products and pro-level musical instruments, the qualities of these expensive products are very subtle and hard to assess; a customer is not able to determine if a $3000 loudspeaker or a $30,000 violin has the sound or tone that they subjectively prefer merely by listening to it or using it in the store for a few hours. To determine if a high-end stereo or musical instrument meets their needs, clients typically take the product out on loan for several weeks, so that they can test the equipment or instrument's response to different types of music and listening environments. Warranties, money-back guarantees, and exchange programs all help to allay the fears of the customer that there will be costly problems with the product; with these programs, the customer knows that in the event of a breakdown, it will be fixed by the store or the product will be replaced.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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First attested circa 14th century, from Old French remors, from Middle Latin remorsum, from Latin remordere "to torment, vex," literally "to bite back," from re- + mordere, "to bite."


  • enPR: [rĭ-môrs]




remorse (uncountable)

  1. A feeling of regret or sadness for doing wrong or sinning.
    • 1897, Oscar Wilde, "De Profundis,"
      Failure, disgrace, poverty, sorrow, despair, suffering, tears even, the broken words that come from lips in pain, remorse that makes one walk on thorns, conscience that condemns . . . —all these were things of which I was afraid.
  2. (obsolete) Sorrow; pity; compassion.
    • 1597, William Shakespeare, King John, act 4, sc. 3,
      This is the bloodiest shame,
      The wildest savagery, the vilest stroke,
      That ever wall-eyed wrath or staring rage
      Presented to the tears of soft remorse.


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