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Culture Of Honor: The Psychology Of Violence In The South (New Directions in Social Psychology: Self, Cognition & Collectives) Paperback – 15 Mar 1996


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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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THE U.S. SOUTH HAS LONG BEEN viewed as a place of romance, leisure, and gentility. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8a452408) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x89c480e4) out of 5 stars Social Science at its best 8 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x89d284d4) out of 5 stars An excellent, unconventional look at the culture of the American South 25 Jan. 2009
By mianfei - Published on Amazon.com
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). They also refute arguments that income inequality or slavery is responsible for the violence in the South by showing its concentration in the mountain areas where slavery was very rare due to the cooler climate.

The book also gives a very good explanation for a number of important facts about honour cultures unrelated to herding or the American South. For example, they show that honour cultures can arise for the same reasons in slash-and-burn farming cultures (see Peggy Reeves Sanday for a description of the Yanomamo) and in certain urban societies. (An undiscussed case that I am curious about is forestry-based societies, where the portability of timber might easily produce honour cultures). Nisbett and Cohen also show how non-portability of resources precludes honour cultures in settled farming societies and among primitive foragers. They also take an extremely thoughtful look at the persistence of honour cultures even after the South has become totally divorced from a herding economy.

All in all, "Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South" gives a good look at the American South with some surprising conclusions that few even among those with a good historical education understand.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f4e9f00) out of 5 stars Important Read 27 Jun. 2015
By tashvi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South, by Richard E. Nisbett and Dov Cohen, takes an original and necessary look into a cultural paradigm that is often denounced and criticized without taking into account the historical and social context in which it occurs. Essentially, a culture of honor is one in which it is generally obligatory and accepted for a male to react with force or violence in response to a threat to his sense of integrity, respect, familial ties, or moral obligations. These patterns of behavior are examined and explained using a variety of different methods, including, historical studies, experiments, and anecdotal evidence.
An interesting theme that came out of the reading was centered on what it means to be a man in contrasting sets of circumstances. As a 3rd-year graduate student, training to become a licensed psychologist, I found myself thinking about past clinical cases and applying that question to the multitude of complex histories I have heard and witnessed in session. I reflected back on my strong reactions to stories told by individuals who survived life on the streets, in gangs, incarcerated for violent crimes, abusive households, extreme poverty, racism, heterosexism, and life of the downside of power. I thought back to my multicultural training (and its lifelong learning curve) and how challenging it has been to navigate between my own life experience, as well as internalized notions of right and wrong, and my clients’.
This book underscored the importance of exercising the adequate amount of empathy and competence in understanding the plight of folks who harbor a disparate set of rules about living life and preserving honor. Throughout the reading, I was reminded of the importance of checking my own biases and expectations around gender norms and expectations in order to adequately conceptualize and plan treatment for clients. I highly recommend this book for individuals working within the judicial system, as well as the mental health field, and for anyone interested in learning about and understanding a different mindset.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b905e94) out of 5 stars Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South 10 Jun. 2013
By Nicole Calma - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South provides an interesting account for patterns of White, male violence in the South, including an analysis of the historical context of the region. The book compares the patterns of violence to those in other herding cultures around the world. In addition, the authors do an excellent job presenting the research to support their claims, making it both understandable to the public and providing enough detail to know how the studies were conducted. While it can be taxing to read through all of the research, it is very informative and the authors do a comprehensive job backing up their theory. Using the data, the authors spend a lot of time logically discounting alternative explanations that could arise to explain the theory. This may come at the expense of discussing practical and clinical implications of the data, but is also a necessary step for establishing the new theory in the field.

This text put words and data to a theory of male violence in the South that I had already believed in, but had difficulty articulating or explaining. The research and theory have important implications for understanding large parts of our society and certain patterns of male violence. For instance, much of the behavior and culture of people in gangs and governmentless societies can be better understood with this theory. In addition, I believe the theory can help explain the pull that societies feel to go to war when attacked or slighted by another group. However, some may find the theory too narrow, as it seeks to explain patterns of White, male violence in rural areas of the South; a very narrow focus group. While this group is still influential in our culture, we are becoming more diverse as a society, which may weaken the strength of this theory. Overall, I found this book to be extremely thought provoking and important for understanding certain patterns of violence that are often seen in our society.

Nicole Calma, M.A.
Clinical Psychology Graduate Student
HASH(0x89f01348) out of 5 stars Three Stars 6 Feb. 2016
By Mark Mears - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Interesting to read
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