November 25, 2008

"Experimental ethnography"

An insult to his honor is something up with which this rooster will not put.

Lately, Goat Rope has been exploring cultural factors that may influence attitudes on the use of violence. As noted previously, societies in which the good things of life are easily stolen tend to develop cultures of honor which view violence as permissible in the face of insults as well as theft and self defense.

Researcher Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen in their 1996 book Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South, argue that much of the American south and Appalachia were settled by people from herding cultures, which tend to develop cultures of honor. As noted in yesterday's post, they found regional differences between white males both in homicide rates and in attitudes regarding the use of violence in defense of honor.

Again, I don't want to overgeneralize about any region, especially one that has changed as rapidly in as many ways as the American south, and the data from the book in question is seriously dated, but I think the ideas posed by the authors is at least interesting enough to kill a week's worth of blogging.

Full disclosure: El Cabrero is himself the product of polite but occasionally belligerent Scotch Irish hillbilly ancestry.

To test their hypothesis, Nisbett, Cohen and other researchers designed an experiment that exposed northern and southern students to a situation in which they where deliberately pushed and insulted by a--pardon the expression--confederate in the study.

They found that southerners responded differently to the insult than northerners in their emotional and physiological response and in how they interpreted the events. They were more likely to be angered than amused by the insult, showed higher levels of the hormones cortisol and testosterone after the event, and interpreted it as a direct attack on their manhood.

Nisbett and Cohen found support for three points based on the results of the experiment:

...(1) the insult is a much more serious matter to the southerner than the northerner. (2) It is more serious because an insult makes the affronted southerner feel diminished. (3) Consequently the affronted southern may use aggressive or domineering behavior to reestablish his masculine status.

All I know is the experimenters are lucky they didn't get their clock cleaned.

PRIORITIES. Governments in the US and Western Europe are spending 40 times more on bailing out the financial system than on climate change or fighting poverty in the developing world.

ROBOSOLDIERS may have a role in the future of warfare.

CHILDREN OF KATRINA are suffering from serious health problems, particularly those who lived in FEMA-provided trailers.

RANDY RANDITES. From New York magazine, here are some personal ads by followers of Ayn Rand who are looking for love.

IX-NAY ON THE OGA-YAY. Malaysian clerics have issued a fatwa against the practice of yoga. They have plenty of company in the US, where the "Christian" religious right has raised similar objections. So like does that mean no stretching exercises?


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