Law, Social Policy, and Violence: The Impact of Regional Cultures

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Social policies reflect cultural values. Because of their frontier heritage, the U.S. South and West were hypothesized to have cultures favoring violence for self-protection. Predictions were confirmed for laws relating to guns, defense of self and home, and foreign policy. In addition, the legacy of slavery should make the South more accepting of violence used for coercion and punishment. Predictions were confirmed for laws relating to spousal abuse, corporal punishment, capital punishment, and foreign policy. The slave South and nonslave South differed from each other only on issues relating to coercion and punishment, further implicating slavery as a source of this ideology. It also was found that although the West and nonslave South might symbolically approve of violence, they rarely administer it. At a collective level, this resembles a) the distinction between symbolic and instrumental attitudes and b) the gap between expressed attitudes and actual behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)961-978
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1996


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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