our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness Phaedr. 244a

2012/09/18

You Insult Me, Sir: Lab Study Says Southern Men Take Insults Seriously

Here's the study from back in the 1990's that Malcolm Gladwell was talking about in Outliers. The section in chapter six he describes as the "social and behavioral pattern specific to, among other places, the American South." Interesting book, Outliers. You'll remember the buzz about its 10,000 hour rule. And why, "When it comes to math [...] Asians have built-in advantage." Stereotypical? Generality? The book is both a look at and beyond that. Gladwell says:

My wish with Outliers is that it makes us understand how much of a group project success is. When outliers become outliers it is not just because of their own efforts. It's because of the contributions of lots of different people and lots of different circumstances— and that means that we, as a society, have more control about who succeeds—and how many of us succeed—than we think. That's an amazingly hopeful and uplifting idea.

The book stays with me. When my younger daughter was going to school in England, she wrote me (after I mentioned my first love was Robin Hood when she said she was visiting York one weekend):

robin hood is from nottingham! not york! nottingham is actually just up the road about 30 minutes. i haven't gone though cause its nickname is 'shottingham' here. it's like the most dangerous city in england, haha. but they do apparently have a lot of touristy robin hood stuff.

(I wrote back:)

O broken dreams. 
Did you read Gladwell's http://gladwell.com/outliers/ Outliers? Explains some things about the US South, https://web.archive.org/web/20120105022237/http://www.gladwell.com/outliers/outliers_excerpt2.html, which was much (un)settled by northern Brits, Geordie boys, and that Americanism, "Scotch-Irish": honor-shame cultures. He examines the idea that certain entrenched behaviors were shaped by shepherding. Really. Shepherding life is all about clan and territory, disputes about where your lot grazes. Life and death things, when you realize they stand between you and starvation, but different from the rest of Europe, who relied on the seasonal nature of grains and their inherent weaknesses for possible acts of god. 

Albion's Seed is the book Gladwell draws from here, and I'd like to get my hands on it. It tends to make certain theoretically-bent historians upset, but -- History is more than theory and fashion. Sometimes it really is a matter of breeding.





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Carole and Chewy said...
Dear English Friend- If you *really* want to get into the whole Scots>American thing, read Jim Webb's "Born Fighting". He explains it much better than Gladwell, from inside out. I think he and I had the same crazy cousins. XXXX and OOOO, Your Scottish-American cohort