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.

Monday, October 29, 2012


The Mirror of the Japanese is not the Gaze of others

The Mirror of the Japanese is not the Gaze of the others by timtak
The Mirror of the Japanese is not the Gaze of the others, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
The majority of research on the effect of mirrors finds that looking in a mirror is NOT the same as being looked at by others, or being aware of the gaze of others (Brockner, Hjelle, & Plant, 1985; C. S. Carver, 1975; Charles S. Carver, 1977; Charles S. Carver & Scheier, 1981, 2001; Davies, 1982; Dijksterhuis & Knippenberg, 2000; W. J. Froming, Walker, & Lopyan, 1982; William J. Froming & Carver, 1981; F. X. Gibbons, 1978; Frederick X. Gibbons, Carver, Scheier, & Hormuth, 1979; Frederick X. Gibbons & Gaeddert, 1984; Goukens, Dewitte, & Warlop, 2007; Hormuth, 1982; Macrae, Bodenhausen, & Milne, 1998; Porterfield et al., 1988; M. F. Scheier & Carver, 1980; M. F. Scheier, Carver, & Gibbons, 1979; Michael F. Scheier, 1976; Michael F. Scheier, Carver, & Gibbons, 1981; Spengler, Brass, Kühn, & Schutz-Bosbach, 2010) at all.

Indeed some research shows that looking at oneself in a mirror produces exactly the opposite effect as being looked at by others. Being looked at by others encourages people to conform to other's expectations. Looking at a mirror generally encourages people to conform to their own internal standards.

There is some research however, that has shown mirrors to increase private self awareness, and at least one paper that has argued that mirrors increase conformance.

So bearing in mind that Japanese are largely unaffected by mirrors (Heine et al, 2008), what does this suggest?

1) That as in the minority of experiments that show mirror's increase public self awareness, and increasing conformance (Diener & Srull, 1979; Govern & Marsch, 1997; Plant & Ryan, 2006; Wheeler, Morrison, DeMarree, & Petty, 2008; Wiekens & Stapel, 2008; Zanna, 1990) the mirror that they are mentally simulating is "the eyes of the world" (seken no me 世間の目). This is quite likely, and I predict in part true. Mirrors are found to increase both public AND private self awareness, so it seems likely that the mental mirror of the Japanese has both of these effects. The "Interdependent self" (Markus and Kitayama, 1991) of the Japanese is not an absense of self but a self that is both aware of itself, and aware of the impact of others upon itself. The dual influence of the Japanese mental mirror would explain the two aspects of the Japanese self.

2) Even if it were the case that the mental mirror of the Japanese is increase private self awareness there is research to suggest that Private self awareness is not a unitary phenomenon (Grant, Franklin, & Langford, 2002; Mittal & Balasubramanian, 1987; Trapnell & Campbell, 1999) but instead
2.1) motivated in different ways by curiosity (leading to self reflection) and a automatic, morbid desire to see the self (rumination)(Trapnell & Campbell, 1999).
2.2) It is also argued that Private self awareness has a motivational and cognitive aspect: on the one hand is an awareness of internal self states and attitudes, and on the other it is the desire to reflect upon the self(Grant, Franklin, & Langford, 2002).

It may be that the Japanese are high in the second ruminatory, motivational element of private self-awareness which is not coupled by an increase in self-cognition, as Ma-Kellams recent research tends to suggest.

3) The Japanese have a different type of independent self, that sees itself from the positition of a super-addressee, Other or God (known in Japan as Amaterasu the sungoddess) visually, with an aesthetic rather than logical impartiality ([Adam]Smith).

Whatever way you cut it however, seeing oneself in a mirror is different from being seen by an audience. In order to unpack this distinction, I claim it will be necessary to reject the argument that the Japanese are "collectivists" in the sense of being socially dependent, since the mirror that the Japanese carry with them also provides a impartial, objective, viewpoint because it is a "riken no ken," a view of self not from that of others, but from a self away from self.

The excellent, for my purposes, image is original artwork by Ms. Miho Fujimura.

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