08-03_Nisbett+_1993_+Violence+and+US+regional+culture -...

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Violence and U.S. Regional Culture Richard E. Nisbett The U.S. South, and western regions of the U.S. initially settled by Southerners, are more violent than the rest of the country. Homicide rates for White Southern males are substantially higher than thosefor White Northern males, especially in rural areas. But only for argument-related homicides are Southern rates higher. Southerners do not endorse violence more than do Northerners when survey questions are expressed in general terms, but they are more inclined to endorse violence for protection and in response to insults. Southern subjects responded with more apparent anger to insults than did Northerners and were more likely to propose violent solutions to conflicts pre- sented in scenarios after being insulted. The social matrix that produced this pattern may be the culture of honor characteristic of particular economic circumstances, in- cluding the herding society of the early South. Consistent with this possibility, the herding regions of the South are still the most violent. Phenomena involving regional, ethnic, or cultural differences in patterns of behavior often prompt heated disputes among historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and economists who seek to account for such phenomena using the particular analytic tools of their disciplines. For the most part, social psychologists have chosen to stand apart from such contro- versies, although such differences seem to have a psycho- logical component and to be susceptible to examination by social psychological methods. Indeed, because of the diver- sity of methods and theoretical approaches used by social psychologists, the field may be well positioned to act as a kind of broker for questions about differences in collective patterns of behavior. The question of regional differences in violence is one of this sort. Throughout the history of the United States, South- erners have been regarded—by Northerners, by travelers from Europe, and by themselves—as being more violent than Northerners. The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture devotes 39 pages to the topic of violence, beginning with the sentence "Violence has been associated with the South since the time of the American Revolution" (Gastil, 1989, p. 1473). The subsequent pages are replete with accounts of feuds, duels, lynchings, and bushwhackings—events that are held to have been relatively commonplace in the South and relatively rare in the North. Less lethal forms of violence are also reputed to have characterized the South. Autobiographies of Southerners, more than of Northerners, report severe beatings by parents (Fischer, 1989, p. 689). Pastimes that seem inconceivable on a New England village green or a Middle Atlantic town square were commonplace in the old South. For example, there was a sport called "purring," in which two opponents grasped each other firmly by the shoulders and began kicking each other in the shins at the starting signal. The loser was the man who released his grip first (McWhiney,
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This note was uploaded on 08/15/2011 for the course PSYCH 166AC taught by Professor Peng during the Summer '11 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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08-03_Nisbett+_1993_+Violence+and+US+regional+culture -...

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