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From Virility To Virtue: The Psychology of Apology In Honor Cultures

In honor cultures, relatively minor disputes can escalate, making numerous forms of aggression widespread. We find evidence that honor cultures’ focus on virility impedes a key conflict de-escalation strategy—apology—that can be successfully promoted through a shift in mindset. Across five studies using mixed methods (text analysis of congressional speeches, a cross-cultural comparison, surveys, and experiments), people from honor societies (e.g., Turkey and US honor states), people who endorse honor values, and people who imagine living in a society with strong honor norms are less willing to apologize for their transgressions (studies 1–4). This apology reluctance is driven by concerns about reputation in honor cultures. Notably, honor is achieved not only by upholding strength and reputation (virility) but also through moral integrity (virtue). The dual focus of honor suggests a potential mechanism for promoting apolo- gies: shifting the focus of honor from reputation to moral integrity. Indeed, we find that such a shift led people in honor cultures to perceive apologizing more positively and apologize more (study 5). By identifying a barrier to apologizing in honor cultures and illustrating ways to overcome it, our research provides insights for deploying cultur- ally intelligent conflict-management strategies in such contexts.

Ying Lin
Stanford University
United States

Nava Caluori
University of Virginia
United States

Engin Öztürk
Dokuz Eylül University

Michele Gelfand
Stanford University
United States


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