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Dueling for Your Supper

Old-fashioned dueling is often considered an excellent example of the irrational male ego gone wrong, but two researchers believe the practice was more logical than it seemed. Christopher G. Kingston and Robert E. Wright have found that ritualistic dueling served to maintain “personal credit and social standing.” Kingston and Wright develop a model where “dueling to defend one’s honor was a rational choice aimed at retaining access to credit markets (and possibly other social and economic interactions) under a prevailing norm which linked dueling to honor, and shunned those who had been dishonored.” The model explains the prevalence of dueling in societies lacking institutional intermediaries where the credit market was “personal” — i.e. credit access was driven primarily by “honor.” [%comments]