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Honor as a cultural mindset: Effects on cognition, emotions, and behavior in children and adults

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Honour, culture and behaviour

An EU team has studied honour as a cultural mindset. Results showed that people perceive honour as spatially located and including gender stereotypes, and also that honour can increase anger in adults and reduce cheating in children.

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People think, feel and behave through the lens of culture. Individualism and collectivism as cultural dimensions have been well studied. However, much less is known about honour cultures, as seen in Arab and Latin societies. The EU-funded HONOR AS MINDSET (Honor as a cultural mindset: Effects on cognition, emotions, and behavior in children and adults) project examined theoretical assumptions about honour. Studies involved activating honour mindsets, examining how honour involves self-esteem and is associated with individualism and collectivism, testing spatial mental representation of honour, and looking at how an activated honour mindset influences how adults and children think, feel and behave. Results indicate that even in people who do not necessarily highly endorse honour values, an honour mindset can be activated. Furthermore, results reveal that in both Japan and the US facets of honour are related to both individualism and collectivism. Findings however show that honour is not similarly associated with self-esteem across cultural groups (i.e. no associations in so-called ‘low-honour’ cultures). Further findings indicate that honour is mentally represented in space. Using a lexical decision task, the team determined that honour is mentally located upwards and to the right, rather than downwards to the left. Researchers further found that once honour is activated in memory, an individual will be more likely to interpret potent characteristics as male. Additional sets of studies illustrated the consequences of an accessible honour mindset on cognition, emotion and behaviour. Activating an honour mindset in adults and children improved performance in tasks requiring hierarchical thinking (e.g. lightest-darker-darkest), but not in tasks requiring nominal thinking (e.g. red-green). Priming honour also increased moral clarity. Among adults, an accessible honour mindset meant individuals were more certain about what is morally right and what is morally wrong. They were also more angered, and more readily communicated their anger in public, but not in private settings. Among children, priming honour reduced cheating. Study results show that honour can be considered as a cultural universal and that an honour mindset can improve or undermine performance if the task does not fit the characteristics of the mindset.


Honour, culture, behaviour, cultural mindset, HONOR AS MINDSET, cognition

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