What are the Three Colors of Worldview?

Culture is like an iceberg and our worldview is the bottom layer of the iceberg and influences everything that sits on top of it. Many times without us being aware of it! A good understanding of your own worldview and what drives you as well as a good understanding of the other person’s worldview and what drives him/her is the starting point and foundation of intercultural understanding and effective intercultural interaction.

(For an introduction to the Iceberg model of Culture, see our article What is ICI and how does n-Culture use it?)

What is a worldview?

There are many ways to define a worldview. In essence, our worldview is the sum of all the basic assumptions and unspoken/subconscious premises that color our view on what is going on in the world around us. Immanuel Kant may be one of the first people to have used the term worldview or “Weltanschauung”, which means one’s look unto the world. Roland Muller in his book “The Messenger, The Message and The Community” (MMC - 2006) gives a short and helpful discussion of the various worldview models and their limitations. His main point is that for a worldview model to be helpful it needs to explain why people who profess allegiance to the same ideology or faith etc., but are from different cultural backgrounds have a different response to the same thing happening in their world, and why people who adhere to different ideologies or religions, but are from the same culture would have similar responses (MMC, chapter 11).

Worldview Drivers

Building on the work of Roland Muller, n-Culture defines one’s worldview as a mix of three primary worldviews, which are named after their drivers, Honor/Shame, Innocence/Guilt and Power/Fear.

Each person’s worldview is a mix of these primary worldviews, yet many times only one or two are dominant and can be used to unlock an intercultural situation or interaction. Hence the name “Three Colors of Worldview”.

As an organization we try to help people understand these drivers and quickly discern which one(s) are driving the other person’s thinking, speaking and actions, rather than labeling people and societies with a distinct worldview. Every person is unique and deserves to be viewed as such, and people who were born into intercultural families, immigrant families as well as global nomads, do not really fit those standard labels. Also, within societies, worldviews can shift over the course of history.

Innocence/Guilt (I/G)

In a predominant Innocence/Guilt society, right/wrong thinking and individual accountability have a strong emphasis. In a sense, one wants to be considered innocent or right and to avoid being wrong or guilty. Fairness is an important concept. Right and wrong are generally defined by standards or laws and lawbreakers are dealt with by “judges” and “law enforcement”. 

Honor/Shame (H/S)

In predominant Honor/Shame societies, the focus is on preserving and enhancing one’s honor and the honor of the group one belongs to and on avoiding to bringing shame on the group. Membership of the group can be through historical ties like being born into a tribe, clan or people, or by choice, e.g. by joining a fraternity, guild or brotherhood. When you bring shame on the group, the group itself will take action instead of resorting to law enforcement.

Power/Fear (P/F)

In predominant Power/Fear societies, the focus is on enhancing one’s control and powerbase, many times by instilling fear, and keeping one’s fear under control. In many ways a Power/Fear oriented society is a group society too, but the fear factor makes that the sense of belonging to the group can be less than in an Honor/Shame oriented society. When the leader of the group focuses on empowering the members rather than on instilling fear, then the sense of belonging is a lot greater.

In some societies that are predominantly Power/Fear based, the instilling of fear happens through religion like in animistic societies, but there are many examples of non-religious societies where Power/Fear is the dominant driver.

Mixes of Worldviews

Like stated earlier, every person’s worldview is a unique mix of the three primary worldviews. At the same time, a larger society like a country can have multiple layers that each have their own dominant worldview.

On a smaller scale, like a nuclear family, the dominant worldview driver could be Power/Fear or Honor/Shame and on a larger scale, like at an inter-family level (a local government), Innocence/Guilt could be the dominant worldview driver. Members of such a society have learned to discern which worldview drivers are to be used in each context, and their personal worldview is a mix of these drivers.

Worldviews and Religion/Faith

One’s religion definitely drives and explains a lot of one’s behavior and choices, yet the worldview drivers are more fundamental in explaining one’s emotional motivators and demotivators. Some also consider them drivers that predate (organized) religion (MMC chapter 11, 12).

At the same time, religion is a powerful lens through which to explain the why’s of the worldviews we observe in everyday life and in a future article, we’ll explore the Three Colors of Worldview more in depth and from a Christian Perspective.

The Three Colors of Worldview is one of the toolboxes we use at n-Culture to build your intercultural understanding and competencies. If you want to learn more about Inter-Cultural Intelligence and how to apply it in your personal life, work, organization and your vocation, n-Culture’s practitioners are available to help. Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

This is part one of a 4-part series on the Three Colors of Worldview. Below are the links to the other articles.

If you want build your understanding of culture and worldviews, and your ability to relate better to people who are different, join us for a workshop or an e-Learning journey.

1. The Three Colors of Worldview

2. Delving Deeper into the Honor/Shame Worldview

3. Delving Deeper into the Innocence/Guilt Worldview

4. Delving Deeper into the Power/Fear Worldview

Originally published on June 8th, 2016 - Edited and republished on April 29th, 2019 

© 2019 n-Culture. The text of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License