Insult, aggression, and the southern culture of honor: An ‘experimental ethnography.’

Three experiments examined how norms characteristic of a “culture of honor” manifest themselves in the cognitions, emotions, behaviors, and physiological reactions of southern White males. Participants were University of Michigan students who grew up in the North or South. In 3 experiments, they were insulted by a confederate who bumped into the participant and called him an “asshole.” Compared with northerners (who were relatively unaffected by the insult) southerners were more likely to think their masculine reputation was threatened, more upset (as shown by a rise in cortisol levels), more physiologically primed for aggression (as shown by a rise in testosterone levels), more cognitively primed for aggression, and more likely to engage in aggressive and dominant behavior. Findings highlight the insult-aggression cycle in cultures of honor, in which insults diminish a man's reputation and he tries to restore his status by aggressive or violent behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved) (from the journal abstract)