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Three Colors of Worldview

Updated: Jun 12

In computer displays, millions of colors are created by mixing only three primary colors: Red, Green, and Blue. In a similar way, every culture can be evaluated as a mix of Honor/Shame, Innocence/Guilt, and Power/Fear worldviews.

The Three Colors of Worldview can be visualized as three colored lenses - formed of the basic beliefs and assumptions underlying behavior and culture. People take in the world and make decisions on how to act through the filter of these lenses. For example, is being seen as honorable more important than being seen as right? Or is maintaining positional power more important than being shamed? To communicate effectively in a cross-cultural situation, you need to know what mix of lenses you have on in the way you see the world, and how to evaluate the lenses of the people with whom you are communicating. When we understand our own self-culture, we can begin to understand what drives others. These are what we look at first when we encounter a new situation, as they influence so many other cultural factors.

The Lenses Through Which You View The World

In an Innocence/Guilt focused culture, schools focus on deductive reasoning, cause and effect, good questions, and process. Issues are often seen as black and white. Written contracts are paramount. Communication is direct, and can be blunt.

Societies with a predominantly Honor/Shame worldview teach children to make honorable choices according to the situations they find themselves in. Communication, interpersonal interaction, and business dealings are very relationship-driven, with every interaction having an effect on the honor/shame status of the participants.

Societies with a predominantly Power/Fear worldview raise children to assess where they fit into the pecking order of every situation they are in and behave accordingly. As they grow up, they learn how to align themselves with the right people to gain more power.

How the Three Worldviews Interact

In societies that see things primarily through an Innocence/Guilt lens, what is “honorable” is whatever follows the letter and spirit of the law. People from this culture can find it hard to understand the diverse range of things that can fall under honor and shame in other cultures.

Honor/Shame societies can find it difficult to correctly interpret the actions of people from Innocence/Guilt societies, who often display behaviors that bring shame to themselves or to their colleagues without realizing that they have done so.

Power/Fear is a natural part of many hierarchies, and is often found in large organizations, particularly the military and large corporations. Societies with strong Power/Fear worldviews are usually led by strong authority figures and are very hierarchical. In these societies or organizations, people may maintain power by instilling fear in others.

Each of the cultural lenses has positives and negatives, and all of them are present in some mixture in every culture. They represent the basic beliefs that undergird people's norms and values in relationships. If you want to see a different cut through those beliefs and values in how these play out in everyday life, take a look at the 12 Dimensions of Culture.

Using the Three Colors of Worldview

We find the Three Colors of Worldview to be a useful starting point when analyzing intercultural situations. They are easy to remember, and they provide an easy and flexible framework through which to understand what is going on in the world around you.

How do I find out my own mix of The Three Colors of Worldview?

We are excited to be able to offer our new online Discovery Tool that will quickly assess your profile and give you a personalized report. Discover your Three Colors of Worldview profile and learn more about the color of your lenses:


To further your cultural learning journey, contact us or get our mini-ebook: Inter-Cultural Intelligence: From Surviving to Thriving in the Global Space.

This is just one piece of KnowledgeWorkx' core framework. View the whole framework here.


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