Multiplex Relationships, Conformity, and General Expectations
Individuals differ as to which of their multiplex relationships are the source of more influential judgments and which less, but it is always from partners in some such relationships that people draw the judgments that affect their behavior most. In the Swahili community, there are shared understandings that encourage this focusing more on certain multiplex relationships than on others.
A Swahili cultural model, expressed in proverbs as well as relationship terms, emphasizes the importance of permanent relationships (mainly of kinship) as opposed to more transitory ones. To the extent that attachment is associated with sensitivity to judgment, this promotes the effectiveness of judgments made by those in such relationships.
The judgments in all relationships, whether simplex or multiplex, always involve the expectations in the statuses of those in the relationships. Expectations, however, are not always different in substance from the other types of understandings that make up statuses. It has been noted several times that the three types of understandings that make up statuses are analytically distinguishable but not necessarily different in fact.
Often, identifying understandings overlap with expectations so that what people do influences how they are categorized. Both kinds of understandings work together to indicate the salience of category membership in different situations and, when several are appropriate at once, to indicate its proper strength in combinations with other statuses. It is what people do that can be seen and assessed, however, and therefore it is expectations that are the understandings most directly tied to evaluation.
But expectations are never divorced from identifiers and salience understandings. Metaphorically, the expectations are the tool's edge, but the haft is composed of identifiers and salience understandings. The three distinguishable components of statuses, however, are subject to joint influence. By having direct influence on expectations, that is, by calling for some rather than others, the social pressures in judgments, double contingency, and cultural models also affect the other parts of statuses through their indications of which are appropriate.
Some expectations are quite specific. A bus passenger is understood to give the conductor money, and in return the conductor is understood to allow the passenger to ride. The ability of the parties to such a simplex relationship to determine whether or not their expectations have been met is to a considerable extent dependent on little more than direct observation and very limited interpretation.
This is not so as concerns many or most of the expectations in multiplex relationships which are of the sort called "general expectations" here. These are broad in scope and only loosely identified with specific behaviors. Although multiplex relationships include specific expectations, the sort that are most vital to them are not met through specific behaviors but rather by a general interpretation of a whole range of actions.
The broad behavioral scope of these general expectations gives them a kind of flexibility in influencing behavior that is particularly important to culture's effectiveness. Because of this, as will be seen in a moment, the importance of participants in multiplex relationships meeting their partners' expectations
goes beyond the relationships themselves to affect how the community as a whole operates.
In an important sense, general expectations differ from specific expectations with respect to the amount of interpretation of behavior they call for. When Swahili say that in relations with those closest to you, your satisfaction or lack of it is due less to what your partners do than it is their nia (purpose or intentions), they are referring to just what is meant by "general expectations."