The habit of visibly deferring to authority is well ingrained in some cultures - while others prefer to pretend that equal power relationships exist between people. A key difference anthropologists sometimes use is between shame culture and guilt culture:
  • in a shame culture, one has honour and is expected to defer when caught in some kind of error; however there is no expectation that a long term bad feeling will then accrue - etiquette may acquire a status above ethics
  • in a guilt culture, one is expected to bear the guilt long term and to make amends creatively, perhaps accepting status below what one held previously - a single ethic and perhaps single religious hierarchy often holds sway

Consequences of minor breaches tend to be more immediate and soon forgotten in shame culture, perhaps because hypocrisy is more expected and inevitable given its focus on etiquette. But major breaches may be treated much more seriously in a a shame culture where shunning is more common, and forgiveness perhaps less common. Some common theories of moral reasoning hold that there is some inherent superiority of guilt over shame cultures - however these theories tend to be from European cultures not Asian cultures where shame plays more fundamental roles.

This distinction is not the same as the difference between retributive justice, restorative justice and transformative justice, which distinctions focus on how to satisfy the offended party. However, the transformative model of justice does tend to require re-involvement of the two parties on a more than surface level, as its main ideal.

Some people believe shame cultures are ultimately "male in gender," somehow, and guilt cultures ultimately "female", as the differences are in their cultural and emotional intelligence.