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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, December 19, 2012


The Chinese are Japanese Too

The Chinese are Japanese Too by timtak
The Chinese are Japanese Too, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
The above image top (Wu & Keysar, 2007) shows the view of some shelves from the front (left) and rear (right). An "instructor" on the rear (right) side of the shelves tells a subject to "move the block one square up."

Subjects, looking at the front (left) of the shelves is faced with a choice (A) of moving the block on the left up, or (B) the block on the right up. But if they think about it, they should be aware that the "instructor" can not see the darker block on their right, and must therefore mean the block on the left. American (and no doubt British) subjects are often too dumb to work this out!

Chinese are not so dumb. They almost never move the wrong block because they look at the shelves from the point of view of the "instructor." In other words, the researcher point out, the Chinese are good at "perspective taking". They are able to see things from an auto-focused or autoscopic perspective. The Chinese, like Kyari Pamyu Pamyu and Japanese martial artists, can look at themselves from the position of the world, as if they have extra eyes pointed inwards towards themselves.

Scholars such as Iacoboni (2009) and Metzinger (2009) show us that all humans can see themselves, take out of body perspectives (Blanke & Metzinger, 2009) but from the above research it is clear some cultures can see themselves more clearly.

This ability to see from autoscopic perspectives pointed towards oneself, as if equipped with a freely positionable mental mirror (Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008) is the defining characteristic of Japanese culture. It represents a different type of "perspective taking" to that refereed to by Mead (1967) since it is not carried out in language. It does, like Meadian linguistic perspective taking result in a sense of self and it may be encouraged by choreographed, repetitive (see Butler, 1993), set-behaviours (kata and dance routines) that through their performance turn the body into a sign and encourages the performer to see these signs from the point of view of the other, and to establish an auto-focused gaze.

This culture of the eye of the other, is due in part to the influence of the Shinto religion, the primary deity of which sees herself as, refers to herself as, and is represented as, a mirror. This mirror is said, by at least one Japanese religious leader (Kurozumi, 2000), to be in the heart of the Japanese.

The experimental evidence points to it being found in the hearts of Chinese too. The first mirrors that were treated with reverence in Japan were imported from China so it is probably fair to say that this ability, to take external auto-focused perspectives, is as Chinese as it is Japanese. I have no doubt that it is engendered as much by Taichi (太極拳) as it is by Karate, or Kyari's dancing. The Chinese and Japanese need to realise their similarities and learn to be friends.

Lower image copyright Kyari Pamyu Pamyu (きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ) the director Jun Tajima, and Warner Music Japan.

Blanke, O., & Metzinger, T. (2009). Full-body illusions and minimal phenomenal selfhood. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(1), 7–13. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2008.10.003
Butler, J. (1993). Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex. Routledge.
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. Retrieved from www2.psych.ubc.ca/~heine/docs/2008Mirrors.pdf
Iacoboni, M. (2009). Imitation, Empathy, and Mirror Neurons. Annual Review of Psychology, 60(1), 653–670. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163604
Kurozumi, M. (2000). The Living Way: Stories of Kurozumi Munetada, a Shinto Founder. (W. Stoesz & S. Kamiya, Trans.). Altamira Pr.
Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 1). The University of Chicago Press.
Metzinger, T. (2009). The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self (1st ed.). Basic Books.
Wu, S., & Keysar, B. (2007). The effect of culture on perspective taking. Psychological science, 18(7), 600–606. Retrieved from pss.sagepub.com/content/18/7/600.short

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