Masculine honor beliefs justify aggression, specifically in response to threat or insult, as a legitimate means for a man to defend himself, his family, and his property. People who endorse masculine honor beliefs tend to see men as less honorable when they fail to uphold this expectation of aggressive retaliation.
The purpose of my study is to explore the role of bystanders in the socialization of masculine honor beliefs by examining their potential function as enforcers of honor expectations. More specifically, my study seeks to determine how confrontation of honor-inconsistent behavior (e.g. failure to respond to threat) can affect a man’s ability to restore his lost honor. I hypothesize that confronting a man for failing to respond to a threat should inhibit his ability to restore his honor through subsequent aggressive retaliation. Additionally, I predict that bystanders will be expected to confront instances of honor-inconsistent behavior and will be regarded as less honorable if they fail to do so.
In order to test these hypotheses, participants will be presented with a vignette wherein they are approached by a male stranger and threatened at either a low or high level (e.g. cut in line or kicked). Participants will then be asked to rate how generally and reputationally threatening they perceive the stranger’s actions to be. Participants will then be presented with different actions they could take in this situation (ranging from not responding at all to responding in a highly aggressive manner) and will be asked to indicate how honorable they would be if they were to take each of these actions. At this point, participants will be told that they decided to do nothing to respond to the stranger and that a male bystander either approached and confronted them for their inaction or witnessed the situation and walked away. Participants will then be asked to rate how honorable the bystander’s behavior was. Finally, participants will again be presented with the list of actions that they could take and asked to indicate how honorable each action is now that they were ignored or confronted for failing to respond initially.
If the results support my hypotheses, then this study will help us better understand the socialization of honor ideology and how self-presentational concerns might lead men to escalate hostile situations. Additionally, it will give us insight into how honor norms are enforced through social interactions and how this enforcement can affect a man’s position in the status hierarchy.