YOU TALKIN' TO ME? Via Matt Yglesias, we see a study reported in the Washington Post showing that Major League pitchers from the South are dishing out the chin music. "I found that pitchers from the South are not more likely in general to hit batters,” said the study's author, Thomas Timmerman, “but they are much more likely to hit batters after giving up a home run, or after a teammate has gotten hit the previous half-inning.”

Timmerman speculates that the South's "honor culture" is to blame. At the risk of convincing yet more people that I have something against our brothers and sisters from Dixie - or more accurately, just our brothers - I refer you to this study from 1996. It involves some rather interesting experiments. From the abstract:

Participants were University of Michigan students who grew up in the North or South. In 3 experiments, they were insulted by a confederate who bumped into the participant and called him an "asshole." Compared with northerners--who were relatively unaffected by the insult--southerners were (a) more likely to think their masculine reputation was threatened, (b) more upset (as shown by a rise in cortisol levels), (c) more physiologically primed for aggression (as shown by a rise in testosterone levels), (d) more cognitively primed for aggression, and (e) more likely to engage in aggressive and dominant behavior.

For those of you unfamiliar with academic lingo, a "confederate" is someone secretly working for the experimenter. And yes, this study involved things like taking a saliva sample, having someone call the subject an asshole, then taking another saliva sample. Who says scholarly research is boring?

To return to the larger issue: is there a connection between the kind of person whose masculinity becomes deeply threatened when someone calls him an asshole, and someone who thinks, say, that terrorism happens because we "show weakness" to the bad guys, and if we convince them that we're strong and resolved then they will forever cower in fear before us? I wonder.

-- Paul Waldman

You may also like