If the stereotype is true -- that Canadians apologize too much -- it might not be such a bad thing after all.

According to a recent Harvard University study, people who offer apologies when they aren't needed are more likely to be perceived as likeable and trustworthy.

"Superfluous apologies" -- that is, saying sorry when there's nothing to apologize for -- show empathetic concern, the study's author Alison Wood Brooks told CTVNews.ca in an email.

"The superfluous apologizer shows that he/she has taken the victim's perspective, acknowledges that he/she is uncomfortable in some way, and expresses regret/sympathy," Brooks explained.

To conduct the study, participants approached people entering a large train station while it was raining outside.

Strangers were asked to lend their mobile phones to one of the study's participants asking one of two questions: "Can I borrow your cellphone?" or "I'm sorry about the rain. Can I borrow your cellphone?"

Brooks said strangers were more likely to hand over their phone if they heard an apology first. "We were surprised that so many people handed their cellphone (over) in the train station after hearing a superfluous apology."

She said in comparison to a traditional apology, which is generally offered after some type of transgression, uncalled-for contrition only adds to the level of trust between people.

"When someone issues a traditional apology, they are trying to recover lost trust. When someone issues a superfluous apology, they are only adding positive trust and liking from a neutral state," explained Brooks.

The study was published in journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science.