Discussion paper

DP16569 Herding, Warfare, and A Culture of Honor: Global Evidence

According to the widely known ‘culture of honor’
hypothesis from social psychology, traditional herding practices
are believed to have generated a value system that is conducive to
revenge-taking and violence. We test this idea at a global scale using
a combination of ethnographic records, historical folklore information,
global data on contemporary conflict events, and large-scale surveys.
The data show systematic links between traditional herding practices
and a culture of honor. First, the culture of pre-industrial societies
that relied on animal herding emphasizes violence, punishment, and
revenge-taking. Second, contemporary ethnolinguistic groups that
historically subsisted more strongly on herding have more frequent
and severe conflict today. Third, the contemporary descendants of
herders report being more willing to take revenge and punish unfair
behavior in the globally representative Global Preferences Survey.
In all, the evidence supports the idea that this form of economic
subsistence generated a functional psychology that has persisted until
today and plays a role in shaping conflict across the globe.


Cao, Y, B Enke, A Falk, P Giuliano and N Nunn (2021), ‘DP16569 Herding, Warfare, and A Culture of Honor: Global Evidence‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16569. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16569