Honor and Emotion

In the same study reported above (Rodriguez Mosquera et al., 2002a), Spanish adults scored significantly higher on the family honor items of the honor scale than their Dutch counterparts. Thus, threats to family reputation damaged the self-esteem of the Spaniards (i.e., they felt worse about themselves) more than the self-esteem of the Dutch. These results have been replicated in a variety of different studies. For example, a study on honor narratives asked Spanish and Dutch children, adolescents, and adults to write narratives about the situations that lead to the loss of honor (Rodriguez Mosquera et al., 2002b). The Spanish participants more often reported not living up to their family’s expectations as a source of dishonor (see also Rodriguez Mosquera, 2011). This cross-cultural variation in family honor has important implications for emotional experience, as those who value family honor respond strongly to threats as well as affirmations of their family’s reputation. We return to this point below in the section on honor and emotion.

Gender ideologies and honor

Men are expected to project masculine honor, which is based on being tough, strong, and being the provider and protector of the family. Feminine honor, which is based on modesty and (sexual) restraint, is expected of women (e.g., Brandes, 1980; Gilmore, 1987; Peristiany, 1965; Pitt-Rivers, 1965). Individuals vary in how much they value masculine and feminine honor. Interestingly, cross-cultural studies have shown that a person’s biological sex is often a stronger predictor than cultural background of the importance of masculine and feminine honor.

For example, Dutch and Spanish males care equally about masculine honor. And, Spanish and Dutch females care equally about feminine honor (Rodriguez Mosquera et al., 2002a). These results are based on scores on the masculine and feminine honor items of the honor scale. The items “To what extent would you feel bad about yourself if you were known as someone who lacks authority over your family?” and “To what extent would you feel bad about yourself if you got a new boyfriend/girlfriend often?" are examples of items that measure masculine and feminine honor, respectively.

A recent study on gender and honor replicates these previous findings with a different methodology (Rodriguez Mosquera, 2011). Spanish and Dutch adults were asked to rate the desirability of masculine honor (e.g., toughness, assertiveness) and feminine honor (e.g., modesty, sexual restraint) attributes for women, as well as for men, in their cultures. Attitudes toward sex-roles (behaviors and activities we expect of men and women) were also measured. Spanish and Dutch participants rated masculine honor attributes (e.g., toughness) as more desirable for men, and feminine honor attributes (e.g., modesty) as more desirable for women. Interestingly, no sex differences emerged in these desirability ratings, indicating that males and females of both cultural groups associated masculine honor with men and feminine honor with women. Moreover, sex--not country of origin--was the most important predictor of attitudes toward sex-roles: men (both Spanish and Dutch) endorsed less egalitarian attitudes toward sex-roles than did women. Thus, the male participants agreed more than did the female participants with statements like “Important jobs in business and industry should be filled by men,” “In general, the father should have more authority than the mother in bringing up children,” or “Men should take initiative in sexuality.”

These findings are in line with research conducted by Gilmore (1987) and Williams and Best (1982) on gender ideology across cultures. Taken together, these studies indicate that the values and norms embedded in the masculine and feminine honor codes (e.g., toughness, modesty) are most likely not particular to any given culture. They seem to be expressions of pan-cultural ideals of masculinity and femininity.

Honor and Emotion

Research on honor and emotion to date has focused mainly on negative emotional responses to insults. Insults are especially interesting social situations to study the emotional consequences of honor threats. Insults communicate that another person does not value or respect us. Since honor is based on the maintenance of a good social image, insults become core emotional events for those who value honor (Rodriguez Mosquera, Manstead, & Fischer, 2004). Core emotional events are situations that threaten or advance important values of an individual.

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