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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.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Individualism and Collectivism in Magazine Photos

Individualism and Collectivism in Magazine Photos by timtak
Individualism and Collectivism in Magazine Photos, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think that "collectivism" does not exist as an "ism" in Japan or that individualism is not prevalent as an "ism" in the USA. Nothing could be further from the truth. The name of Japan is sometimes "Wa" or "harmony," the Japanese call themselves "The Harmonious." And Westerners are always calling themselves individualists. Jeremy Paxman, possibly the most famous British television jouralist described the London Olympics opening ceremony in the following way:

"Whatever nit-picking worries anyone has about the Opening Ceremony (for me, it was the almost total absence of the golden thread of British history, the fight for personal liberty), it set a tone that was amplified throughout the games. Could a nation of cussed individualists ever bring off an opening show to rival the spectacular we saw in Beijing?" [my emphasis] (Paxman, 2012)

There can be no doubt that at the level of linguistic philosophy, the Japanese espouse harmony and cooperation, whereas Westerners espouse personal liberty and individualism.

How about in the real world? I find the Japanese to as individual as the English. The excellent review paper by Beth Morling (Morling & Lamoreaux, 2008), "Culture outside the head," however reaches the opposite conclusion, so I thought I had better see what it had to say.

The first paper reviewed paper I could download, claimed that since Japnaese adverts used more imagery and were less likely to mention the product directly, they were therefore colectivistic; trying to build up a relationship with the purchaser (Javalgi, Cutler, & Malhotra, 1995). I thought that this analysis was unfair. Readers of this blog (?!) would know that it is my opinion that Japanese use imagery because they identify with images and have a God (or generalised other) that looks rather than listens (Leuers & Sonoda, 1999b).

While clicking around on analysises of print media, however, I cam up with a result that made me pleased. Wang (2006) noted that Taiwanese magazines are Westernised and that collectivist messages (table page 73) and individualist messages (table page 68) are aboult equal at the linguistic level in adverts in Taiwanese and American magazines. Let us assume that this result is due to Westernisation.

However, Wang also noted that when it comes to photographs, Taiwanese magazines are more likely to show individuals (Taiwan 73.1%, US 59%) and correspondingly far less likely to show groups (Taiwa 26.9%, US 41%) (see table page 65). This is not at all unusual. Japanese magazines are lonely (or narcissistic). Their protagonists are displayed on their own.

This result mirrors that found in my research on autophotography (Leuers & Sonoda, 1999b: see Heine 2007, p213). Japanese autophotography displays not only more positivity, but more pictures of self, whereas American photos show more pictures of other people.

Having a look at some Japanese and American fashion magazines, it seems that the same pattern is repeated. American women want to be kissed and appear with men in US Cosmopolitan. Japanese women are more self-reliant and rarely show men in their magazines (or collages) because men's demands for affection are rather annoying (uzai).

Westerners are linguistically individualist since they consider themselves to be linguistic entities (narratives) and try to differentiate their narratives from those of others (largely unsuccessfully, see Leuers & Sonoda, 1999a). Japanese see themselves as their self-images, first and foremost their face (Watsui), and as seperate embodied existances they yearn for communitas and harmony which they express in their "let's make friends" philosophy of harmony (Yamagishi, 2002).

In any event, I do feel that at a personal level the Japanese are extremely self~possessed, self-reliant and difficult to push around. Anyone married to a Japanese woman should know that, but despite the fact that some famous cultural psychologists are, they do not reach the same conclusion. I guess that they presume that they have married an unusual Japanese. (You know who I am thinking of...Fat chance that he reads my blog).

Heine, S. J. (2007). Cultural Psychology (First ed.). W. W. Norton & Company.
Javalgi, R. G., Cutler, B. D., & Malhotra, N. K. (1995). Print advertising at the component level: A cross-cultural comparison of the United States and Japan. Journal of Business Research, 34(2), 117–124. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/014829639400116V
Leuers, T. R. S., & Sonoda, N. (1999a). Independent self bias. Progress in asian social psychology, 3, 87–104. Retrieved from httyp://www.nihonbunka.com/docs/independent_self.rtf
Leuers, T., & Sonoda, N. (1999a). The eye of the other and the independent self of the Japanese. Symposium presentation at the 3rd Conference of the Asian Association of Social Psychology, Taipei, Taiwan. Retrieved from http://nihonbunka.com/docs/aasp99.htm
Morling, B., & Lamoreaux, M. (2008). Measuring culture outside the head: A meta-analysis of individualism—collectivism in cultural products. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 12(3), 199–221.
Paxman, J. (2012, August 12). London 2012 Olympics: Who thinks Britain is rubbish now? Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/9469017/London-2012-Olympics-Who-thinks-Britain-is-rubbish-now.html
Wang, I. C. (2006). I‘ or’ WE"? A comparative analysis of individualism in Taiwanese and US print advertisements. Retrieved from http://etd.lib.nsysu.edu.tw/ETD-db/ETD-search/view_etd?URN=etd-0728106-154652
山岸俊男. (2002). 心でっかちな日本人―集団主義文化という幻想. 日本経済新聞社.

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