In the early 1990's, two psychologists at the University of Michigan—Dov Cohen and Richard Nisbett—decided to conduct an experiment on the culture of honor. . . . So they decided to gather together a group of young men and insult them. Their methodology was disarmingly simple. "We sat down and tried to figure out what is the insult that would go to the heart of a 18 to 20 year old's brain," Cohen says. "It didn't take too long to come up with 'asshole.'"
The experiment went like this. The social science building at the University of Michigan has a long narrow hallway in the basement, lined with filing cabinets. The young men were called into a classroom, one by one, and asked to fill out a questionnaire. Then they were told to drop off the questionnaire at the end of the hallway and return to the classroom—an innocent, seemingly simple academic exercise.
For half the young men, that was it. They were the control group. For the other half, there was a catch. As they walked down the hallway with their questionnaire, another man—a confederate of the experimenters—walked past them and pulled out a drawer in one of the filing cabinets. The already narrow hallway was now even narrower. As the young men tried to squeeze by, the confederate looked up, annoyed. He slammed the filing cabinet drawer shut, jostled the young men with his shoulder and, in a low but audible voice, he said the trigger word—"asshole."Update (Mar 27) : Thanks to Anand for the post text.