"While there may be several factors that would explain why men may choose to engage in aggression when responding to romantic rejection, we research social phenomena influenced by adherence to masculine honor beliefs - cultural norms based on the American Southern culture of honor which consist of expectations that men use aggression to defend and uphold their reputation against threats and insults."
In the first study, the researchers assessed the masculine honor beliefs of 194 female undergraduate students before examining how the participants would respond to a hypothetical situation in which they wanted to reject an unwanted romantic advance from a man.
"We found people higher in masculine honor beliefs perceive a man being romantically rejected as a threat to his honor, and women higher in masculine honor beliefs are more likely to endorse their own use of passive/avoidant rejection techniques - including deception," Stratmoen told PsyPost.
"We also found men higher in masculine honor beliefs are more likely to perceive women's use of deception as a rejection technique as a greater threat to a man's honor. Furthermore, people overall expect men to engage in retaliatory aggression after being rejected when the woman used a deceptive rejection technique."
"Additionally, we found women higher in masculine honor beliefs expressed greater expectations of men to engage in retaliatory aggression against other women when they reject men, regardless if a deceptive rejection technique was used," Stratmoen said.
The researchers were particularly surprised to find that women high in masculine honor beliefs expressed lower expectations of men's aggression after rejection in the first study, but expressed higher expectations in the second.
"When we examined women's first-person perspectives in the first study - by asking them what they would do when rejecting a man's romantic interest - we found women higher in masculine honor beliefs were less likely to expect men to react aggressively against her when she rejects him. However, when we examined third-person perspectives in the second study, we found women higher in MHBs were more likely to expect men to react aggressively against another woman."