Cultural Conformity: Bases for Shame and Guilt
The effectiveness of this process, of course, depends in part on people's concern with others' evaluations. Such concern is not equally present in everyone or equally common in different communities. An oversimplified but useful division is according to the nature of the goals sought. One sort of schema aims primarily at supplying the individual with the positive evaluations of his fellows. A related, but different, schema puts its focus mainly on attaining intrinsically rewarding goals, with others' approval of them or of the means for attaining them secondary.
The difference between the exact behavioral guidance provided by each of the schema would not be obvious. One might seek goal A because one understood that others admired the quest, or, alternatively, one might seek A because one wanted it for itself. In either case, the directly observable behavior is A being sought. Differences would appear in how the individual felt about gaining or not gaining what the schemata called for and the nature of the pleasure or pain experienced.
If painful feelings associated with others' negative judgments are the result, it would appear that what was in operation is what Obeyesekere calls "shame" (1981:131). This is the meaning of the Swahili term aibu, a word often heard in Old Town.
A concern with the correspondence between one's actions and one's own evaluative understandings independent of others' judgments is a different sort of process, one that is nearer to what is sometimes called "guilt" (e.g., Piers and Singer 1971 :26–27). Although it occurs among the Swahili, it is less commonly heard about there and, possibly, less common in occurrence (see Swartz 1988).
Aibu does not depend on the actor evaluating himself or his behavior in a negative way but on his belief that others do. The Swahili are by no means unusual in experiencing feelings of disgrace, dishonor, and dysphoria as a consequence of believing others do or would disapprove of what they do.
They may, however, be different from the members of some other groups in the extent to which a very substantial proportion of them dwell on the possibility.