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Aggression & Cultures of Honor

Review of research on the culture of honor theory of southern violence

Dr. H. C. Sinclair

on 13 November 2018

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Transcript of Aggression & Cultures of Honor

The Culture of Honor
Nisbett, 1993
Let's REALLY Irritate You
Also Linked to Accidental Deaths
Is it really a Southern thing?
A Different Perspective on Why
Critiques & Alternatives?
Herding link debunked (Chu et al., 2000)
Rural murders rare
Almost entirely explained by poverty
Low-status compensation (Henry, 2009)
More about masculinity norms ("Precarious manhood;" Bosson et al., 2009)
Is that the same as honor?
What about women?
Keepers of the code
Let's Call You a Name...
The "A$$^@!*" Study (Cohen et al., 1996)
Let's take an Audit...
"Audit" study (Cohen & Nisbett, 1997)
"Art Therapy" Study (Cohen et al., 1999)
Researchers from the University of Oklahoma found that white men and women living in southern and western states are more likely to engage in risky behavior that leads to accidental death.
States with honor culture have 14% higher accidental death rate (19% in rural areas).
If so, what part of the South?
Understanding Aggression in Cultural Contexts
Complete the following words with whatever word first occurs to you:
1. m _ r_ _ r 2. _ i o l _ _ _
3. k i _ _ 4. r _ p _
5. h _ r _ 6. s _ _ b
7. p _ n _ _ 8. f _ r _ _
9. a t t _ _ _ 10. e x _ l _ _ _
A little exercise
Can be shocking
Or noisy
Or uncomfortable
How do you do that Voodoo…
Would you like a little hot sauce with that?
What’s on your mind?
What’s in your blood?
Measuring Aggression
Who do you think is more violent?
The Northeast
The Midwest
The West
The South
Social Influences:
Socio-Cultural Theories
Murder (2016)
Northeast: 11.3% (3.5)
Midwest: 22.5% (5.7*)
South: 46.2 (6.5*)
West: 20.0% (4.5)
National: 5.3
By region…
Louisiana: 11.8
Missouri: 8.8
Alabama: 8.4
Illinois: 8.2
Mississippi: 8.0
Maryland: 8.0

New Hampshire: 1.3
Maine: 1.5
Minnesota: 1.8

Most & Least Violent
Alaska: 804.2
New Mexico: 702.5
Nevada: 678.1
Tennessee: 632.9
Louisiana: 566.1
Arkansas: 550.9

Maine: 123.8
Vermont: 158.0
New Hampshire: 197.6
But Why?
Less About This...
Different Cultural and Historical Traditions
Frontier Culture: defensive violence to protect property and family
Law is unavailable/unreliable & resources are scarce
Southern Culture
Defensive protection of one’s honor
Social control to save face
Use of aggression as social control
Endorsement of:
Violence in General: Southerners = Northerners
Defending Reputation: Southerners > Northerners
Defending Family & Property: Southerners > Northerners (also Hayes & Lee, 2005)
Corporal Punishment: Southerners > Northerners
And perceive peers as more accepting as well (Vandello et al., 2008)
Different Attitudes
Attitudes Toward Violence (Nisbett, 1993)
912 Job Application requests sent to:
Wal-mart, motel chains, hotel chains, family restaurants, and motorcycle dealers
In North vs. South
Letters varied…
“There is one thing I must explain because I feel I must be honest and want no misunderstandings. I have been convicted of a felony, namely _________...”
“….manslaughter. You will probably want an explanation for this before you send me an application. I got into a fight with someone who was having an affair with my fiancé. One night this person confronted me in front of my friend’s bar. He told everyone that he and my fiancé were sleeping together. He laughed at me to my face and asked me to step outside if I was man enough. I was young and didn’t want to back down from a challenge in front of everyone. As we went into the alley he started to attack me. He knocked me down and picked up a bottle. I could have run away and the judge said I should have, but my pride wouldn’t let me. Instead, I picked up a pipe that was laying in the alley and hit him with it. I didn’t mean to kill him, but he died a few hours later at the hospital. I realize what I did was wrong…”
Job Applicant #1
112 responses received. In the South, the honor killer was more likely to get an application than the thief.
Warmth of response was also higher:
“As for your problem of the past, anyone could probably be in the situation you were in. It was just an unfortunate incident that shouldn’t be held against you. Your honesty shows that you are sincere. I wish you the best of luck for your future. You have a positive attitude and willingness to work. Those are the qualities that businesses look for in an employee. Once you get settled, if you are near here, please stop in and see us.”
The response
Take some Northerners & Southerners
Add an insult
And see who laughs vs. gets angry
And who has violence on the brain
Experimental test of honor
You can almost taste it...
Playing chicken
5) Hits participant with another paper wad, “Man, you keep getting in my way” followed immediately by another hit,saying “He shoots, he scores.”
4) Reaches over & takes 2 more crayons from participant “I need these ones now, Slick.”
3) Then hits participant with another paper wad, apologizes insincerely: “Oh, sorry, Slick. Trying to hit the basket.”
2) “This really sucks. I hate drawing.” Crumples up paper, shoots, missing, but hitting participant. “Watch out there, Slick.”
1) “Let me get a couple of your crayons, Slick. I’ll give them back later.”
Enter the "Annoyances"
11) Hits the participant with another paper wad and adds: “I don’t know about your drawings, Slick, but you make a pretty good target.”
10) Looks at participant’s drawing: “You know, your drawing is pretty weak.”
9) “Duck, you need to duck” and hits the participant again. Amused with himself, he says, “Get it, Duck – duck?”
8) Launches another paper wad, hits, & says “Sorry about that Duck.”
7) Hits the participant with another paper wad, saying “You’re sitting there like a sitting duck. Maybe I’ll call you Duck instead of Slick.”
6) Goes over to participant and says: “Great art work. I can tell you’re really in touch with your inner feelings. But you need to put your name on it.” He then writes “Slick” on the participant’s drawing.
It doesn’t end there…
Now Let's Observe
Can We Shake on It?
And to Violence Against the Self
Osterman & Brown, 2011
Study 1 showed that, controlling for a host of statewide covariates, honor states in the United States have significantly higher suicide rates than do nonhonor states.
Study 2 shows that statewide levels of antidepressant prescriptions (an indicator of mental health resource utilization) are lower in honor states, whereas levels of major depression are higher, and statewide levels of depression are associated with suicide rates only among honor states.
Finally, Study 3 shows that individual endorsement of honor ideology is positively associated with depression.
Barnes et al., 2012
And School Shootings?
Brown et al., 2009
High-school students in culture-of-honor states were significantly more likely than high-school students in nonculture-of-honor states to report having brought a weapon to school in the past month.
Using data aggregated over a 20-year period, it was found that culture-of-honor states had more than twice as many school shootings per capita
as non-culture-of-honor states.
In Study 2, 303 college newspapers were sent facts for a story concerning a stabbing in response to a family insult vs. a pistol-whipping in the course of a convenience store robbery.

94 reporters created stories that were subsequently coded by reviewers blind to source.

Southern and western papers were more sympathetic toward the perpetrator and presented his actions as more justified than northern papers did.
An additional follow-up
Nat'l average: 397.1 per 100,000
Which of the following is NOT a supported explanation for regional differences in violence in the US?
A) The South has more people
B) The South is hotter
C) Southern states are higher in poverty
D) Southern states are higher in unemployment
The Culture of Honor theory predicts that individuals will be most violent when:
A) Their property is damaged
B) Their family is threatened
C) Their reputation is insulted
D) All of the above
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