Guilt-Shame-Fear spectrum of cultures

The distinction between a guilt society, shame society, and a fear society has been used to categorize different cultures.

  • The differences can apply to how behavior is governed with respect to government laws, business rules, or social etiquette.‚Äč
  • The guilt-innocence world view focuses on law and punishment. A person in this type of culture may ask, "Is my behavior fair or unfair?"
  • The shame-honor worldview seeks an "honor balance" and can lead to revenge dynamics. A person in this type of culture may ask, "Shall I look ashamed if I do X?" or "How people will look at me if I do Y?"

The fear-power worldview focuses on physical dominance. A person in this culture may ask, "Will someone hurt me if I do this?"
Though the same person may emphasize different considerations depending on the situation, government and business projects that bring together people from different types of cultures may experience problems.

This has to be linked with the observation of the link of people with rules, morals and ethics as described by Eric Erikson on one side and Lawrence Kohlberg from an other point of view.