"When You Call Me That, Smile!" How Norms for Politeness, Interaction Styles, and Aggression Work Together in Southern Culture

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Violence, Anger, Politeness, Hostility, Social interaction, Serenity, Rituals, Demography, Friendship

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Norms for politeness may actually promote violence in the US. South. Whereas northerners may have behavioral rituals in which they give and receive small doses of hostility to regulate conflict, southerners seem not to. In two laboratory experiments, southerners were less clear than northerners in both sending and receiving signs of hostility. In Study 1, southerners initially showed little reaction to an annoying confederate only to end with bursts of anger far more sudden and more severe than northerners ever showed. In Study 2, as subjects watched objectively dangerous situations unfold, southerners were less sensitive to cues of hostility than were northerners. And in Study 3, consistent with southern politeness norms inhibiting effective conflict resolution, it was shown that friendly, helpful cities had different patterns of argument-related violence in the North and in the South. Results suggest a cycle in which norms for politeness and for violence can reinforce each other.

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Social Psychology Quarterly, v. 62, no. 3, p. 257-275