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Field Experiments Examining the Culture of Honor: The Role of Institutions in Perpetuating Norms about Violence

Authors:
Dov Cohen, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Publication Date:
Jan 1997
Project Programs:
Cultural Contact

Two field experiments illustrate how institutions of the U.S. South and West can help perpetuate violence related to a culture of honor. In Study 1, employers across the United States were sent letters from job applicants who had allegedly killed someone in an honor-related conflict. Southern and western companies were more likely than their northern counterparts to respond in an understanding and cooperative way. In Study 2, newspapers were sent facts for a story concerning a stabbing in response to a family insult. Southern and western papers created stories that were more sympathetic toward the perpetrator and presented his actions as more justified than northern papers did. Control conditions in both studies showed that the greater sympathy of southern and western institutions involves honor-related violence, not all violence or crime in general. Findings highlight the importance of examining the role of institutional behavior in perpetuating culture.

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