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Masculine honor ideology shapes responses to terrorism

In the new study, "Don't Tread on Me: Masculine Honor Ideology in the U.S. and Militant Responses to Terrorism," former START Terrorism Research Award recipient Collin Barnes argues that masculine honor ideology in the United States is a factor in the intergroup phenomenon of people's responses to terrorism. Barnes, along with co-authors Ryan Brown and Lindsey Osterman, used the connection between honor concerns and male violence and aggression to compare the so-called "honor states" in the southern United States with the northern "non-honor states."

The researchers examined men's reputation for toughness, fearlessness and aggressiveness in the face of provocations.

"To date, scholars have almost exclusively emphasized the implications this mentality has for responses to provocations at the personal level," Barnes said. "We move beyond this focus by considering the link between the ideology of masculine honor in the United States and militant responses to provocations experienced at the national level in the form of terrorism." Collin Barnes

Barnes and his colleagues performed two studies -- one to establish the predicted association between masculine honor ideology in the United States and militant responses to terrorism, and another to measure the support of lethal retaliation against suspected terrorists between northern and southern individuals in the United States.

Through a hypothetical terrorist attack on the Statue of Liberty and controls such as patriotism and religiosity, they validated their first hypothesis, and correctly predicted more support for military action against terrorists from southern participants. They also found data supporting the hypothesis that the U.S. honor ideology could also be used to justify domestic terrorist acts.

The researchers identified honor-related motives -- in particular, the desire to restore lost honor or to prevent future losses to honor -- as a common feature underlying many terrorist attacks, including the rather extreme instances of suicide bombings. Barnes is a post-doctoral researcher in the Social Psychology department at the University of Oklahoma.

He was given the 2011-2012 Terrorism Research Award for post-doctoral recipients for his study, "Linking Culture-of-Honor Theory with Militant Responses to Foreign Terrorism." The study was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and was funded by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) and Time-Sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS) at the University of Chicago.

To view the study, visit http://psp.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/05/02/0146167212443383.