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Culture Of Honor: The Psychology Of Violence In The South (New Directions in Social Psychology) Paperback – March 15, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0813319933 ISBN-10: 0813319935 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions in Social Psychology
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Westview Press; First Edition edition (March 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813319935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813319933
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Richard E. Nisbett is Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and codirector of the Culture and Cognition Program at the University of Michigan.
Dov Cohen is assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Richard E. Nisbett is Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and codirector of the Culture and Cognition Program at the University of Michigan.
Dov Cohen is assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Customer Reviews

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
The culture of honor is a fascinating look at the role that cultural traditions can play in determining the incidence of homocide and other forms of violence. What I liked most about the book was the way Nisbett and Cohen used all the tools of social science, from survey and archival research to clever laboratory experiments to test their thesis. The way in which they "broke down" their data was particularly convincing. For instance they showed that where cultural influences were strongest(for example, in small towns rather than big cities)the North-South differences in homocide rates were greatest.While there were a lot of statistical tables and graphs, the book was easy and entertaining to read. I would especially recommend it for people who are interested in understanding about regional differences in American ideas about taking the law into your own hands, and for undergraduates who want to get a good look at the way social scientists can tackle complicated questions.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By mianfei on January 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For all its great hospitality and unique literature and music, the American South has often been seen as having a much darker side in the form of higher levels of violence than found elsewhere in the country or in other developed nations.

In "Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South", Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen closely examine violence in the American South and show the extra violence in the South to lie in the culture of honour inherited from the original settlers of the South, who were herders from the mountainous regions of Scotland and northern Ireland. The culture of honour, in which people are expected to carry out revenge if their honour or ability to defend themselves is insulted, arises as a result of resources being easily stolen, so that in the absence of big government theft becomes a viable route to bounty. Such conditions are fulfilled by herders who are always in danger of losing their extremely portable animals to another herder. Nisbett and Cohen show that herding peoples have always been much more violent than farmers or hunter/gatherers.

Nisbett and Cohen use very well-selected data to show how the difference in violence between the South and the rest of the United States relates to violence committed as a result of arguments, which are seen as threats to the power of not only men but also women in the South. Many other uses of violence are supported no more or even less in the South than in other parts of the United States (for example violence as a means of achieving social change).
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Format: Paperback
I was very suspicious of the idea that "culture" could be the reason for higher levels of personal conflict homicides among Southern whites, but the evidence presented was surprisingly convincing.

I have a couple of observations. #1, and I have no scientific basis for this, but I have an attachment to Malcolm X's assertion that "chickens come home to roost"/ karma / uncontrollability of violence. That the US south and west have the worst histories of genocide & slavery & expansionist war seems to me to be a "cosmic" reason for higher rates of bad things happening. Of course, that doesn't explain why non-personal homicide rates are similar.

#2, When the US military talks about a culture of honor, is that the same thing?
[...]
#3, Since the south hosts a higher percentage of military facilities than other regions, I wondered if white homicide rates could be correlated with presence of military installations?

#4, when the US government responds to "insults" with war, is that a reflection of a culture of honor? I'm thinking about the personalization of the enemy - Hitler, Tojo, Noriega, Saddam - so we're attacking an individual who "dissed" us rather than entire peoples.

As you can see, I am ideologically more inclined to attribute US violence to national policies than a culture brought by Scotch-Irish pastoralists. Although, if I'm honest with myself, that doesn't explain regional differences in white personal conflict homicide rates.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
We all know or have known Southerners that respond differently to insults than more cultured Northerners. I love the fact that the author (I've read other works of his and been very impressed) also noticed, and then scientifically demonstrated that physiological differences could be evoked and measured under test conditions that could be duplicated. His use of double-blind methodology and attention to detail leave the results safe to the scrutiny and interpretation by others. He then takes David Hackett Fischer's explanation - Albion's Seed is the probable source, although he may have picked it up from one of his colleagues because it does make perfect sense. But Fischer, who attributed it to a herding culture and competition for resources, was writing about settlers that arrived before the American Revolution. Why has it persisted? The economic base of Southern society has changed so much since the days of a herding culture, I don't believe that particular economic explanation will suffice into the 21st century, attractive as it might be to a Marxist. Socially, it makes perfect sense. Wander through the halls of any high school and you'll be reminded just how class based America still is. Nob Hill v. Trailer Park. Cliques. Jocks, Druggies, Nerds, need I go on? This breaks down as we head off to college and the Big City, but what of the culture most academics have escaped. With close social connections, a man builds a reputation that determines his place in the local hierarchy. He will defend his "Name" as if his economic opportunities and his place in the community depend upon it. Because they do, and everyone is constantly watching and voting on the others. Nisbett points out that Southern women despise a man that won't stand up for himself, for women and children.Read more ›
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