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INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS AND GROUP PROCESSES _ Insult, Aggression, and the Southern Culture of Honor: An "Experimental Ethnography" Dov Cohen University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Richard E. Nisbett University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) Brian F. Bowdle Northwestern University Norbert Schwarz University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) 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. Partic- ipants 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 (a) more likely to think their masculine reputation was threatened, (b) more upset (as shown by a rise in cortisol levels), (c) more physiologically primed for aggression (as shown by a rise in testosterone levels), (d) more cognitively primed for aggression, and (e) 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. Approximately 20,000-25,000 Americans will die in homi- cides this year, and tens of thousands more will be injured in stabbings or gunfights that could have ended in death. In about half of the homicides for which police can find a cause, the trig- Pierce, 1987); and, in many of these cases, this triggering inci- dent might be classified as "trivial" in origin, arising from a dispute over a small amount of money, an offensive comment, or a petty argument. Such incidents, however, are not trivial to the participants in them. Rather, the participants behave as if something important Dov Cohen, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Ur- bana-Champaign; Richard E. Nisbett and Norbert Schwarz, Depart- ment of Psychology, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor); Brian F. Bowdle, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University. We are indebted to the following people for their help with the con- ceptual development and execution of the experiments: Jessica Berns, Carissa Bowles, Eli Cohen, Lisa Cohen, Ronna Cohen, Mechele de Avila, James Dabbs, Amie Eigner, Phoebe Ellsworth, Jennifer Euster, Tangie Fry, Becky Gastman, Cori Hardy, James Hilton, David Howell, Kerrie Johnson, Stephanie Kitchen, Fred Lennox, Sheri Levy, Andy Modigliani, Sean O'Neil, Sangita Patel, Chris Powers, Jasmin Riad, Frank Rowan, Jeremy Shook, Cassie Slisher, Pam Smith, Jon Steinfeld, Kent Talcott, Kevin Taylor, Ken Visser, Tomica Williams, and Phil Wills. Andrew Reaves made helpful comments about an earlier draft. This work was supported in part by a Russell Sage Foundation Grant
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This note was uploaded on 11/07/2010 for the course C 150a taught by Professor Willer during the Fall '10 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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