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Honour Killings - Inexplicable or Understandable?


A Leader in The Times recently suggested that honour killings were “motivated by a deep-seated misogyny”.  I believe it may be more simple and more fundamental than that.  I would suggest that it is our deeply-ingrained fear of the condemnation of our peers.  We all share a natural but powerful aversion to humiliation.  A 2014 study by neuroscientists in Trieste, Italy, found that ‘social pain’, such as that created by the humiliation of social exclusion or rejection, activated the same areas of the brain as those processing physical pain. Social exclusion is thus interpreted by the brain as identical to having one’s hand in a fire.  The pain can be felt not only by individuals, but also by corporates, communities, and even nations.  It is this apprehension of humiliation caused by the finger of blame that drives governments and other organisations repeatedly to attempt  ‘cover-ups’, to seek smoke-screens and whitewashes, and to refuse to apologise in the face of blatant wrong-doing. If we recognise the strength of this perceived pain of humiliation social exclusion, it may help us understand the motivation of parents who take the lives of their own flesh and blood.


Read more from Paul Randolph on the psychology of conflict in his latest book:


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