Goal Derailment and Goal Persistence in Response to Honor Threats
In honor cultures, maintaining a positive moral reputation (e.g., being known as an honest person) is highly important, whereas in dignity cultures, self-respect (e.g., competence and success) is strongly emphasized. Depending on their cultural background, people respond differently to threats to these two dimensions of honor. In two studies, we examined the effects of morality-focused and competence-focused threats on people’s goal pursuit in two honor cultures (Turkey, Southern United States, and Latinx) and in a dignity culture (Northern United States). In Study 1, Turkish participants were more likely to reject a highly qualified person as a partner in a future task if that person threatened their morality (vs. no-threat), even though this meant letting go of the goal of winning an award. Participants from the U.S. honor and dignity groups, however, were equally likely to choose the people who gave them threatening and neutral feedback. In Study 2, Turkish and U.S. honor participants were more likely to persist in a subsequent goal after receiving a morality threat (vs. no-threat), whereas U.S. dignity participants were more likely to persist in a subsequent goal after receiving a competence threat (vs. no-threat). These results show that people’s responses to honor threats are influenced by the dominant values of their culture and by the tools that are available to them to potentially restore their reputation (e.g., punishing the offender vs. working hard on a different task). This research can have implications for multicultural contexts in which people can have conflicting goals such as diverse work environments.