Monday, August 15, 2011

so angry Irish guys tend to die in disputes about honor and manhood?

... That’s the premise of a new study out today in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. The three authors, all from the University of Oklahoma, found that states with a “culture of honor” –- in the South, and the West, mainly -- also have higher rates of accidental death for white males: 42 per 100,000 compared to 36.8 per 100,000 in non “honor” states.

So what’s a “culture of honor”? “The relentless, and sometimes violent, defense of masculine reputation,” according to the study.

“This is an adaptation to what the Ulster Scots [also called the Scots-Irish] experienced over 800 or 900 years in southern Scotland,” one of the study’s authors, Ryan P. Brown, explained. “That’s a breeding ground for the types of dynamics we are looking at.”

Interclan raiding and warfare led to allegiance to family and a high value being placed on one’s personal bravery; think Mel Gibson and his blue William Wallace face. Then, when those people came to the United States, they tended to move to some pretty wild areas.

So does this mean road rage is more common in the West and South? Not entirely sure about the nature of the study or if it has replicable results. Psychologist Roy Baumeister has done work on violence and social integration and he has proposed that the badass is a person who fights more by reputation than actual fighting. If the badass is perceived as, well, a badass, then he doesn't have to fight most of the time. In fact he only needs to win the few fights he may get into or merely be perceived as having not lost his honor to keep his position. It's not entirely surprising that cultures in which a badass could emerge are those in which honor and masculinity are felt to be at stake.

I suppose the upshot so far as the author is concerned is that you, as a man, will live a bit longer if you don't feel obliged to actually prove your manhood over slights real or imagined, particularly if those slights are, well, slight.

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