Thursday, November 17, 2011
In Search of the Japanese Self
Partly as a result of wondering how it is that Japanese can see their relationships with others, including the world, as being internal to themselves, I asked 20 Japanese to rate the extent to which certain things and phenomena are so much you that "If it were changed you would cease to be yourself," and "Not public, or anyone else's." I am not sure if I asked the right questions but I was trying to get to what my subjects thought themselves to be.
I was particularly interested in whether they would deem their view / visual sense percepi as being themselves or out there in the world, as well as the relative selfness (?) of body, self, speech and voice.
I had predicted a greater importance afforded voice since it always seems that in shows featuring suited representations of Japanese cartoon and maskted tokusatsu characters, they have to mime to the voice of the standards voice actor for them to be felt to be the real thing.
The results, shown above, show that Japanese identify most strongly with their head, foollwed by theif feelings, internal self speech, dreams, body, voice, and finally vision. Vision was felt to be way down the list, below the mid point of the scale (1-5) where 5 meant entirely essential and private, whereas 1 meant inessential and public. All the same they were half way to avowing that their vision might be private and that the wold they see might not be shared with anyone else.
I should have included some other, but less, self phenomena such as clothes, name, possessions, home, self-facts (such as being from Saga obviously a 1 on the "not public" part of the scale, but perhaps important to ones identity.)
I think that I should also make the scale a little longer 1-7 perhaps to allow for more variation between the top (head?) and bottom (possessions?) of the scale.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the above graph is the reversal of the relative heights of the blue and red lines for the three items on the right. It is clear that my two questions are different. In the case of dreams for instance, one might imagine oneself continuing to exist as oneself without dreaming, and yet feel it very strange if anyone else saw, or could see ones dreams. It was interesting however that both voice and vision should be evaluated in the same way. Would I be more surprised if I suddenly had another voice, or if someone else had the same voice as me? I (incorrectly) feel that I have quite a neutral accent, so I am not sure I would be all that surprised to meet someone with my voice.
Finally, I am tempted to think that other people see the same colours as I do, and share the same visual field as I, but I would find it very strange if my experience went dark, if I were to become a philosophical Zombie. Perhaps my subjects' lack of surprise refered to the possibility that they should go blind.
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.