Who, me? Never! The best excuse is blaming someone else


Who, me? Never! The best excuse is blaming someone else

Cambridge academic has discovered how best to get yourself off the hook, albeit not completely

Camilla Turner

Whether you are late for work or have forgotten a friend’s birthday, crafting the perfect excuse is an art that we all strive to master. Now a Cambridge academic has discovered that the best way to get yourself off the hook is to blame someone, or something, else.

Dr Paulina Sliwa, an expert in moral psychology and philosophy of mind at Cambridge’s Faculty of Philosophy, has created the first “unified theory of excuses”, which she calls the Good Intention Account. Her study, published in the journal Philosophy & Public Affairs (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10884963), argues that the most effective excuses are those where you explain that you had the right intentions, but were thwarted by circumstances beyond your control.

If you wanted to apologise for forgetting an appointment, examples of this approach might include “I had a terrible migraine” or “I haven’t slept for the last three nights” or “I was preoccupied with worries about my mother’s health”. Or, if you wanted to apologise for breaking a vase, you might say “I stumbled over the rug”...

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