J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

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.

Thursday, July 05, 2012


Does this Lady Like Blue? Hypothesis regarding the Japanese Fundamental Attribution Error

Does this Lady Like Blue? Hypothesis regarding the Fundamental Attribution Error  in Japan by timtak
Does this Lady Like Blue? Hypothesis regarding the Fundamental Attribution Error in Japan, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
This lady is a model. I told her how to pose. Half the models I employed were wearing clothes that they like, and the other half are wearing clothes that I gave them to wear.

[Free Condition] Lets say that the lady chose the blue top herself. Does she like the blue top she is wearing?

[Constrained Condition] Lets say that I told her to wear one of the tops that I had brought along. I passed her a blue top. Now, does this lady like the blue top that she is wearing?

My prediction is that more Japanese will answer that the lady likes blue, even under the second, "constrained" condition.

The fundamental attribution error refers to the tendency to infer traits from people's behaviour. If one sees someone behave violently, then there is a tendency to believe that person is violent, when in fact they may have been acting out of self defence. However most of the research (that I have read anyway) on the fundamental attribution error has focused on a single behaviour: reading out loud.

In the USA it is found that even if subjects know that the reader has been constrained, and forced to read a certain essay, they still judge that the reader believes that which they are reading lout loud.

The Fundamental Attribution Error disappears under the constrained condition in Japan. This is because, we are told, the Japanese are contextual, interdependent, and behave in accordance with the social rules and cues pertaining in the situation, rather than according to their traits. Japanese people are thus accustomed separate their "honne" (true feelings) and tatemae (social front). When they hear that someone has been constrained therefore, they do not fall foul of this "fundamental error," and just presume that the reader is reading what he has been told to read.

In accordance with the overall Nacalian theory presented by this blog, I predict that the above result may be an effect of the Western belief in the narrative self, the Western belief that speech is thought, the Western tendency to see the person in language. In other words, Westerners will be far more likely to make Fundamental Attribution Errors about speech acts. Visual self representation, such as clothing, and architecture is seen has being mere "context".

In Japan however, it may be the case that visual self-presentation is seen as being the self, the person. Thus if someone is wearing blue, then even if Japanese people are told that the person has been constrained, they will still have a tendency to believe that the wearer likes blue.

I will test this. By the way, the lady in the above picture brought the blue top along. I presume therefore that she likes blue, but I don't know. Image used in education with permission.

The above was based on a seminar presentation of previous research by Ms. Fujimura (Thank you!) based on the following excellent textbook of cross cultural psychology.
増田貴彦, & 山岸俊男. (2010). 文化心理学〈上〉心がつくる文化、文化がつくる心. 培風館.

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