We present a theory of honor violence as a form of costly signaling. Two types of honor violence are identified: revenge and purification. Both types are amenable to a signaling analysis whereby the violent behavior is a signal that can be used by out-groups to draw inferences about the nature of the signaling group, thereby helping to solve perennial problems of social cooperation: deterrence and assurance. The analysis shows that apparently gratuitous acts of violence can be part of a system of norms that are Pareto superior to alternatives without such signals. For societies that lack mechanisms of governance to deter aggression or to enforce contracts, norms of honor can be a rational means of achieving these functions. The theory also suggests that cultures can become trapped in inefficient equilibria owing to path-dependent phenomena. In other words, costly signals of honor may continue to be sent even when they are no longer providing useful information.
Thrasher, John, and Toby Handfield. “Honor and Violence: An Account of Feuds, Duels, and Honor Killings." Human Nature, vol. 29, no. 4., 2017. doi: 10.1007/s12110-018-9324-4
Available for download on Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence Commons, Family, Life Course, and Society Commons, Other Philosophy Commons, Other Sociology Commons, Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance Commons, Social Psychology and Interaction Commons, Sociology of Culture Commons