Honor Culture and Dignity Culture are two mindsets that help guide a person’s behavior. The main difference between them can be boiled down to how each views reputation.

Honor Culture

In a culture of honor reputation is everything and must be vigilantly protected from insult. The power of reputation is the cornerstone of gangsta rap, Machiavelli’s The Prince, and the Dread Pirate Roberts.



The significance of reputation comes from Honor Culture’s historical roots, which developed in herding cultures where the only thing preventing someone from stealing your sheep was the threat of retribution. Herders couldn’t rely on the government to punish someone for stealing so they had to do it themselves. The more severe the punishment the more likely it would prevent others from attempting the same.


It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.–Machiavelli


Members of honor cultures build social credit by standing with the group, resulting in stronger families and communities, a necessity when outside authority can’t be trusted.



The Honor Culture mindset values cohesion over ideological differences even when those differences are extreme. For example Robert E. Lee privately opposed secession from the Union, but his personal honor demanded that he stand with his fellow Southerners.


“…I look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned the four millions of slaves in the South I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?”—Robert E. Lee


When you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way!



The defense of reputation leads to self-policing, which can be extremely effective in maintaining social stability or devastating when someone speaks against the group or goes against the social norms and is sometimes taken to violent extremes as in “honor killings”.


Undervaluing education is another consequence of Honor Culture’s herding roots. Reading books took the attention off the flock and left the sheep vulnerable to attack or theft. Although the herding environment changed, the culture did not and the group tends to underperform economically as a result.




Dignity Culture

Cultures of dignity do not place a high value on reputation because they developed in agricultural societies, which flourished when petty insults were ignored and resolving larger conflicts was trusted to governmental bodies. Property boundaries were fixed, making it easier for authorities to settle disputes between neighbors as opposed to the “he said she said” accusations of missing sheep.


“If you roll your eyes condescendingly at the importance of reputation you might NOT be a redneck.”–(Not) Jeff Foxworthy


Members of dignity cultures value principles over cohesion as in the case of Martin Luther who instigated the Protestant Reformation against the Catholic Church, Serpico who exposed police corruption, or Sherron Watkins who took down Enron. Whistleblowers are the heroes of Dignity Culture.


Al Pacino can play roles in both cultural mindsets, making him a Mixed Mental Artist.



Members of Dignity cultures struggle to maintain strong communities because they distinguish themselves by standing against the group when the cause misaligns with their narrow views, giving rise to phenomena like “Bernie Bros”.



Because members of agricultural based communities could trust authority to settle property disputes, people were free to pursue education, which helped them flourish economically and led to their dominance in science and research, but unfortunately created echo chambers within those fields.


So many books covering Honor Culture, yet so few on Dignity Culture. Wikipedia has a page for “culture of honor”, but for some W.E.I.R.D. reason no entry for “culture of dignity.”


“If you regularly use the expression, “Because science!” you might NOT be a redneck.”–(Not) Jeff Foxworthy


Dignity Culture’s biggest shortcoming is not believing it has culture and therefore wrongly assumes it has no cultural bias, setting it up for Naïve Realism or what Jon Haidt calls the “biggest obstacle to world peace and social harmony.”


Though there are stark differences between Honor and Dignity cultures one is not wholly superior to the other. Much like Growth and Fixed Mindsets, Atomism and Holism, one is generally more appropriate or helpful depending on the situation.


A Mixed Mental Artist understands that our cultures must evolve to accommodate our rapidly changing environment. We can use Humanity’s Superpower to appropriate the good from each other’s culture in order to form one that is far greater than each separately.


Be like Bruce.


    1. Cate Fogarty Post author Reply

      Hi Dave! Good question! Growth mindset is definitely most helpful when you’re trying to learn or achieve something, but a dose of fixed mindset can be very helpful in difficult situations when it’s time to move on. Hunter Maats wrote this great knowledge bomb (http://mixedmentalarts.co/fixedmindset/) that explores fixed mindset in addiction, and I would extend that to say it’s helpful in ending toxic relationships of all kinds. What do you think?

    1. Cate Fogarty Post author Reply

      I don’t think I would say “fixed mindset people” because that implies you’re one or the other when it’s actually valuable to move into different mindsets for different situations. A MMArtist knows it’s important to use the appropriate mindset for the situation. But yes, if you’re in a toxic relationship whether it’s with drugs or people it’s important to admit what you can’t change about the situation so you can move on. If we’re talking about your relationship with math or science it’s better to have a growth mindset and believe in your potential. Does that clarify it for you?

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