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Apologia Models


Techniques > Conversation techniques > Excuses > Apologia Models

Ware and Linkugel | Benoit | Rosenfield | Ryan | Downey | See also



An 'apologist' is a person who is accused and seeks to defend or excuse him- or herself. The process of doing so is sometimes called 'apologia'.

In classical Greek law cases, the prosecution delivers the kategoria, to which the defendant response with an apologia, in the shape of a formal rebuttal.

Apologetics is consequently the discipline of defending a position or doctrine through the systematic use of information.

Several academics have studied high-profile apologia such as from Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods, and have produced several models and explanations.

Ware and Linkugel's Apologia

Based on the work theory of belief-dilemma resolution by Robert Abelson (1959), Ware and Linkugel (1973) described a set of four key methods by which we excuse ourselves and show that we are not to blame. These are:

Denial and bolstering are seen as reformative, as the speaker neither invents the identification in them nor tries to change the audience’s meaning. On the other hand, differentiation and transcendence are considered to be transformative, in the way the speaker tries to change the situation.

The authors noted that in practice two or more of these are often used together.

Benoit's postures

Benoit (1995), describes five strategies and further sub-strategies for image restoration:


Strategy Subcategory
Denial Simple denial
Shifting the blame
Evading of Responsibility Provocation
Good Intention
Reducing Offensiveness of Event Bolstering
Attack accuser
Corrective Action  


Four postures that use pairs of Ware and Linkugel's methods are also described:

  • Absolutive: Denial and Differentiation
  • Vindictive: Denial and Transcendence
  • Explanative: Bolstering and Differentiation
  • Justificative: Bolstering and Transcendence.

Rosenfield’s rhetorical model

Rosenfield described four aspects in apologia:

  • Short, sharp controversy
  • Verbal counterattack on the critics
  • Data and facts
  • Composition of earlier statements

Ryan's kategoria and apologia

Halford Ryan suggests that accusing (katagoria) and defending (apologia) have to be understood as a linked pair.

Downey's historical model

Sharon Downey notes that the tactics of apologia have changed through history with the changing situation (hence supporting Ryan's necessity of pairing).

In medieval times apologists 'adjusted to the futility of the argument' and, over time, the drama of the classical situation gave way to 'audience alienation, ambiguous accuser, and aversive apologist'. More recently, charges have become 'implied and not explicit, often emanating from rumors and innuendo'. Also, both admission and counter-attack are more prevalent in modern times.

See also

Restitution, Apology


Abelson, R. P. (1959). Modes of resolution of brief dilemmas. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 3, 343-52.

Benoit, W. L. (1995). Accounts, excuses and apologies: A theory of image restoration strategies. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Downey, S.D. (1993). The Evolution of the Rhetorical Genre of Apologia. Western Journal of Communication, 57, 1, 42-64

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