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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


From What Perspective do The Japanese see Themselves: Why I don't want to be Dov Cohen

Dov Cohen

Numerous reports have argued that the Japanese have the ability to see, or simulate seeing, themselves. But from whose perspective are the Japanese able to see themselves from?

It was with rapt interest that I read another of Dov Cohen’s excellent papers (Cohen & Gunz, 2002, which was submitted in 2000) where he mentions the generalized other in connection with the Japanese internalized external-self-gaze. Dr. Cohen argues that the generalized other is internalized more in collectivist societies. Fortunately I think that this, Dov Cohen's postition, is the reverse of the truth: the generalised other frees us from the gaze, and judgement, of the real others that we face.

That is not to say that I am arguing that the Japanese are more individualist. Perhaps even their generalised others are somewhat less generalised, more of a eyes of the we, the community, or "seken no me" (see Satou, 2001). In any event, as a point of theory, the generalised other should therefore be more prevalent - more commonly simulated and internalised - in individualist societies.

Bakhtin (1986, p.126), the Russian Literary critic used as a basis for Hermans and Kempen’s “Dialogical Self” (which is very similar, or predicts the results found in those who have dialectical thought), argues that communication always presumes an other, is always at least dialogical. However, Bakhtin aslo claims that the communicators meaning is not leftentirely at the mercy of otherS, but rather communicators presume that what they have to say has meaning even if the immediate other (the you) does not understand them, because Bakhit argues they have (he mentions God), presume, or simulate a generalized other or “Super Addressee.”

Mori Arimasa (Mori, 1999) claimed that the Japanese Language and hence Japanese have no linguistic “third person perspective,” and consisisted in only first and second person communication forms, thus “I” is an “you for you.” I agree. The Japanese see language as something with which one communicates; and there is nothing strange in this.

Mead (1967) makes no suggestion that internalization of his famous generalized other is associated with collectivism. Indeed, similar to the logic employed by Bakhtin (ibid), the "generalized other" frees the individual from taking the perspectives of real, second-person others.

Jacques Lacan (2007) argues that the self has to be formed through the use oflinguistic symbols because it is only in language that people can see themselves from the perspective a generalized Other (Lacan) without the existence of real others or mirrors. Similar to Bakhit, Lacan argues that a person that attempts to cognise themselves visually is always at the mercy of others or the presence of mirrors a situation which Lacan portrays in a very negative way.

Mead (1967) goes further to suggest that without a mirror one can not even see oneself from the viewpoint of others.

1) As mentioned above there are theoretical (Mori,1999) and experimental evidence (Leuers and Sonoda, 1999; Kanagawa et al., 2001) to suggest that Japanese speech, even self-narrative, is dialogical, always addressed to an other, not addressed to a generalised other or "third person."

2) On the other hand, there is theoretical and experimental evidence that Japanese can see themselves (Zeami in Yusa, 1987; Cohen et. al. 2007, Masuda et al., 2008), including from the perspecitive of a mirror (Heine et al. 2008). The mirror it should be noted promotes *private* self awareness, not public self awareness (see Fejfar and Hoyle, 2000 for a review), that is to say an objective view of self from the position of self, rather than from real others - which is called public self-awareness.

Private self-awareness is the objective self-awareness which can be achieved through the internalisation of an other with whom one identifies (see Vaz & Bruno, 2003 for a discussion of internalised but non-identified others).

It is probable that people in Japan have far less of a problem with identifying with others. "Hell is other people," is far more true for a Westerner like Satre (1989) than for many East Asians. However, in the case of Japanese, as it is in the West, people only really want to identify with a generalised other, a transcending other, an other who is other but not AN other, thou and not you, other and yet also self.

Or, put another way, in answer to my title, my desire to be Dov Cohen is ambivalent. I want to be Dov Cohen, but at the same time I don't, because he is not me. Though I am not even one of Dr. Cohen's psychological fingernails, I am greedy, I want to to have a general, objective perspective and be right!

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. (V. W. McGee, Trans.). University of Texas Press.

Cohen, D., & Gunz, A. (2002). As seen by the other...: perspectives on the self in the memories and emotional perceptions of Easterners and Westerners. Psychological Science, 13(1), 55-59. http://web.missouri.edu/~ajgbp7/personal/Cohen_Gunz_2002.pdf

Cohen, D., Hoshino-Browne, E., & Leung, A. K. (2007). Culture and the structure of personal experience: Insider and outsider phenomenologies of the self and social world. Advances in experimental social psychology, 39, 1- 67.

Fejfar, M. C., & Hoyle, R. H. (2000). Effect of Private Self-Awareness on Negative Affect and Self-Referent Attribution: A Quantitative Review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 4(2), 132-142. doi:10.1207/S15327957PSPR0402_02

Heine, S. J., Takemoto, T., Moskalenko, S., Lasaleta, J., & Henrich, J. (2008). Mirrors in the head: Cultural variation in objective self-awareness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(7), 879-887.

Hermans, H. J. M., & Kempen, H. J. G. (1993). The Dialogical Self: Meaning as Movement. Academic Press.

Hermans, H. J. M. (2001). The Dialogical Self: Toward a Theory of Personal and Cultural Positioning. Culture & Psychology, 7(3), p 243- 281. doi:10.1177/1354067X0173001

Lacan, J. (2007). Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English (1st ed.). W W Norton & Co Inc.

Leuers, T. R. S., & Sonoda, N. (1999). Independent self bias. Progress in Asian social psychology, 3, 87-104. (Leuers is Takemoto)

Kanagawa, C., Cross, S. E., & Markus, H. R. (2001). ‘Who am I?’ The cultural psychology of the conceptual self. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(1), 90-103.

Masuda, T., Gonzalez, R., Kwan, L., & Nisbett, R. E. (2008). Culture and aesthetic preference: comparing the attention to context of East Asians and Americans. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(9), 1260-1275.

Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 1). The University of Chicago Press.

Mori 森有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房.

Sartre, J.-P. (1989). No Exit and Three Other Plays. Vintage.

Satou 佐藤直樹. (2001). 「世間」の現象学. 青弓社.

Vaz, P., & Bruno, F. (2003). Types of self-surveillance: From abnormality to individuals ‘at risk’. Surveillance & Society, 1(3), 272-291.

Yusa, M. (1987). Riken no Ken. Zeami’s Theory of Acting and Theatrical Appreciation. Monumenta Nipponica, 42(3), 331-345.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.