Honor Cultures

Thu Apr 27, 2006

I’ve read with some interest a SEP article on experimental approaches to moral psychology by John Doris and Stephen Stich. In particular, their citation of Nisbett and Cohen’s Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South (Westview, 1996) caught my interest, particularly the description of the “asshole” saliva experiment (with a member of the team quaintly described as a “confederate”). I’m skeptical of the historical and sociological explanation of the origin of the Southern honor culture sketched out in the article, though I know that Bertram Wyatt-Brown has written extensively about it, and how do you isolate the causal factors responsible for the perceived hormonal changes? I’m reminded of the argument in Lem’s The Chain of Chance here, though probably for caliginous reasons.