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Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South

NCJ Number
R E Nisbett; D Cohen
Date Published
137 pages
This study documents elements of culture in the U.S. South that foster violent behavior in the defense of one's honor.
Making use of the historical and ethnographic work of others, this study profiles traditional, herding-based cultures of honor around the world and shows their commonalities with the historical and contemporary cultures of the U.S. South. With archival methods that use census and crime reports, researchers have collected evidence that shows the homicide rate of the South, especially the rural South, to be high relative to the rest of the Nation. Using survey techniques, the study collected evidence which shows that the values of southerners favor violence to protect property, to retaliate for an insult, and to socialize children. Using experimental methods, researchers show that southerners respond to insults in ways that are cognitively, emotionally, physiologically, and behaviorally different from the pattern shown by northerners. Field experiments show that southern institutions are more accepting of individuals who have committed violent crimes in defense of their honor. Archival methods yielded evidence that many of the social institutions and contemporary public policies of the South have their roots in the culture of honor, including the acceptance of violence to protect property as well as personal and national honor. 29 figures, 4 tables, 204 references, appended supplementary information, and a subject index


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