"Culture of honor" is what social scientists call a society that organizes social life around maintaining and defending reputation. In an honor culture, because reputation is everything, people will go to great lengths to defend their reputations and those of their family members against real and perceived threats and insults. While most human societies throughout history can be described as "honor cultures," the United States is particularly well known for having a deeply rooted culture of honor, especially in the American South and West. In Honor Bound, social psychologist Ryan P. Brown integrates social science research, current events, and personal stories to explore and explain how honor underpins nearly every aspect of our lives, from spontaneous bar fights to organized acts of terrorism, romantic relationships, mental health and well-being, unsportsmanlike conduct in football, the commission of suicide, foreign policy decisions by political leaders, and even how parents name their babies. Sometimes the effects of living in an honor culture are subtle and easily missed--there are fewer nursing homes in the American south, as more parents live with their children as they age--and sometimes the effects are more dramatic, as in the case that there are more school shootings in honor states, but they are always relevant. By illuminating a surprising and pervasive thread that has endured in our culture for centuries, Brown's narrative will captivate those raised in these types of honor cultures who wish to understand themselves, and those who wish to better understand their neighbors.
Ryan P. Brown, Ph.D., is a social psychologist who has conducted research on how people think, feel, and behave for over 20 years. Before joining the Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University, he was the L. J. Semrod Presidential Professor of Psychology at the University of Oklahoma. He has also taught at Amherst College and the University of Texas at Austin. A native Alabamian of Scottish ancestry, he continues to write, speak, and conduct research on the social dynamics of honor in the U.S. and around the world.