B.L Ware and Wil A. Linkugel draw on Robert Abelson’s theory of belief-dilemma resolution to describe four factors that apologists use when caught in a wrong: denial, bolstering, differentiation, and transcendence (275).
According to Ware and Linkugel, the first two factors—denial and bolstering—are reformative in the sense that in neither case does the speaker “totally invent the identification” (277) nor does the speaker attempt to “change the audience’s meaning” (275) of the issue or idea being discussed. The act of denying allegations and facts is useful in apologetic discourse in that (as long as the truth is not distorted) it allows the apologist to respond to charges in a way that does not conflict with the values and beliefs of the audience (Ware and Linkugel 275). In contrast to denial, bolstering takes place when an apologist “attempts to identify himself with something viewed favorably by the audience” (Ware and Linkugel 277).
While denial and bolstering are reformative, the second and third factors—differentiation and transcendence—are transformative. Differentiation is described as a discussion of the individual aspects that make up a larger action or accusation; in doing so, speakers attempt to redefine situations or cast their actions in a new, more detailed, and positive light (Ware and Linkugel 278-279). In contrast to differentiation, the fourth factor—transcendence—describes strategies shift the focus away from the particulars of a situation to the larger, conceptual ideals that the audience views favorably (Ware and Linkugel 280).
In short, the four factors consist of two reformative factors (denial which involves negation and bolstering which involves the opposite, identification) that do not attempt to change the meaning of the issue being discussed, and two transformative factors (differentiation, which focuses the audience’s attention on the particular, and transcendence which focuses on the abstract). Ware and Linkugel also combine one transformative factor with one reformative to construct four rhetorical postures often used by apologists: absolution (which consists of denial and differentiation), vindication (denial and transcendence), explanation (bolstering and differentiation), and justification (bolstering and transcendence) (282-283).