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Related: feeling - condition - behaviour - social - emotion


Shame is a social condition and a form of social control consisting of an emotional state and a set of behaviors, caused by the consciousness or awareness of having acted inappropriately. Shame may lead to depression or suicide.

Shame differs from embarrassment in that it does not necessarily involve public humiliation; one can feel shame for an act known only to oneself, but in order to be embarrassed, one's actions must be revealed to others. Also, shame carries the connotation of a response to actions that are considered morally wrong, whereas one can be embarrassed regarding actions that are morally neutral but socially unacceptable (such as an accident).

According to the late anthropologist Ruth Benedict, cultures may be classified by their emphasis of using either shame or guilt to regulate the social activities of their members. Asian cultures, as for example China and Japan, are considered shame cultures. European and modern American cultures, as for example the United States, are considered guilt cultures. Traditional Japanese society and Ancient Greek society are sometimes said to be "shame-based" rather than "guilt-based" in that the social consequences of "getting caught" are seen as more important than the individual feelings or experiences of the agent.

However no culture exclusively uses one of these internalized feelings. Anthropologists today reject this mode of classifying cultures. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shame [Oct 2004]

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