This is a short explanation of a very lengthy sociological and anthropological phenomena. It took up a whole semester unit at university so it is hard to do it justice in a short blog.
There are three major psychological mechanisms employed by others to control the behaviour of members of their group.
They are – Shame, Guilt and Anxiety.
While they can exist individually as a mechanism of control in a particular social group they may also operate in tandem within an individual’s psychological profile.
Shame is greatly applied in “Traditional societies”, where the extended family is paramount and there is a clear paternal, maternal or fraternal leader. Shame is the thing you do not want to suffer in the eyes of the extended family. Being part of the family is the key to survival. It is the:
“Go away and never darken my door again!” – the lassie who falls pregnant out of wedlock for example.
Guilt is more commonly applied in modern society and operates within nuclear family groups. The application of guilt makes one conform to the groups requirements. It is the:
“Do that and you will suffer dire consequences that will taint your reputation forever!” - The family bread winner who is fired from his job and has to drop in social station and work in a more menial task position, the motivation to not be caught drink driving, the fear of 'doing the wrong thing'!
Anxiety is the mechanism applied amongst younger generations. By differentially raising and lowering anxiety levels amongst the group members the leaders attain group conformity. It is the:
“Come on, join in! Don’t be a dead sh*t” - It the fear of “exclusion” that causes group members to go along with group behaviour which, as an individual, they may very well not have done so.
As a person who grew up in a traditional extended family, “Shame” was very potent in my formative years. It became weakened, however, when I broke the binding close ties of an extended family network, moved away, formed a new relationship, got married and raised my own family in an area remote from my traditional family. It was then that “Guilt” was a very driving motivator to achieve and to provide for my new ‘nuclear family’.
“Anxiety” has not been a great motivator in my behaviour, at least until now. As I become older and more frail and as a couple Rhonda and I are left to fend for ourselves, the application of “Anxiety” by external groups – such as governmental care agencies – is becoming more apparent.
(John Peri Photography : http://photo.net/photodb/member-photos?user_id=470386 )