Re: Cohen et al.'s "Southern Culture of Honor" study

From: Jay Lemke (
Date: Mon Jan 12 2004 - 19:03:40 PST

Thanks, Peter, for another cheery example of the masquerade of reason!

The U of Michigan IRB is, at least today, rather notoriously over-concerned
about the least possibility of discomfiture to human subjects (or about the
university's legal liability, reports differ). When was this study done?

How can people DO this kind of research??? How can others not just LAUGH at
its pretensions? How could anyone imagine that you could conclude anything
seriously important or useful by doing such a study ... or were they just
out to "test a hypothesis" about retrograde southerners? or try to add a
publication to what must be a pretty needy CV?

Could we maybe ban the word "because" from the social sciences?


At 12:10 PM 1/12/2004 -0500, you wrote:
>I've read the Cohen et al. article recently posted to xmca and have a hard
>time believing that anyone could take it seriously. If it had been sent to
>me as an external reviewer, I would have recommended that it not be published.
>The population studied is a sample of students attending the University of
>Michigan. One comparison group was deemed "Northern" and the other
>"Southern" by virtue of having spent at least six years of their lives in
>a region of states ranging from Delaware to Texas. All, however, were
>students at Michigan. So, this study of the "Southern Culture of Honor"
>took place in the upper midwest, where I imagine that a person of southern
>upbringing would feel out of place. And I would infer from general
>population tendencies that northerners (like the researchers, all at
>universities in Michigan and Illinois) would not treat this population as
>equals in general but as natives of a region characterized by ignorance,
>poverty, Christian fundamentalism, and other negative traits (at least to
>those making the judgments).
> From a CHAT perspective, I think it's irresponsible and unethical to take
> an alien population, subject them to hostility, and then conclude that
> they are aggressive. The research methodology is as follows: "In 3
> experiments, [the participants] were insulted by a confederate who bumped
> into the participant and called him an 'asshole.'" Among other things, I
> must wonder how this study got through any responsible institutional
> review board, given the potential psychological impact on an alien being
> accosted in this manner.
>The researchers say that the American Souther has for centuries been
>regarded as more violent than the North. "We think the best single
>explanation has to do with the South being home to a version of the
>Culture of Honor, in which affronts are met with violent
>retribution." Anyone, however, who can read a demographic chart knows
>that the South has historically been poorer than any other region of the
>US, and that people in poverty are more violent than people living in
>relative prosperity. So the fundamental assumption that a culture of
>honor exists in the South because of higher rates of violence is
>questionable. Extrapolating that the Southerners being called assholes in
>an environment they likely perceived as hostile are acting out a culture
>of honor when responding aggressively is just idiotic.
>Peter (who lived for 14 years in the Chicago area and found it pretty violent)

Jay Lemke
University of Michigan
School of Education
610 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Tel. 734-763-9276

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