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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.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Intergroup Comparison versus Intragroup Relationships

Intergroup Comparison versus Intragroup Relationships: A Cross-Cultural Examination
The image above, adapted from Yuki (2003, p172) , shows how Americans and Japanese conceive of groups. Westerners concentrate on the name and set of central attributes of that group and all members feel themselves to share that attribute with all other members, in comparison with outgroups and their members who do not share the same attributes. These can be quite simple such as soccer fans may see membership of their teams fan base as derived from their belief that they "Want Chelse/Liverpool to win." They may chant "Chelsea, Chelsea," or "Liverpool, Liverpool," and they may mind merge with the social identity of their group becoming an outgroup hating herd animal. They do this to achieve vicarious self-enhancement through identification with the presumed superiority of their group. Their team wins, and the fans bask in reflected glory. Even if they loose they can believe that the fans are the most "loyal." And either way they can engage in an ego trip believing their group and/equals themselves to be superiority to others. Western group members therefore indulge in intergroup comparison, to enhance beliefs of the form "we are better than them" and "they are worse than us." This herd-like comparative group cognition is illustrated in the top diagram (a).

Japanese on the other hand pay attention to the many and various relationships and the network of relationships *within* their group. They have no interest in making downward comparison to the detriment of other groups. Their groups do not need a scapegoat, an other, to form at all. They are bonded by mutual cooperation, by "give and take" (a loan-expression from English into Japanese), obligation (giri) and ninjou (empathy) towards ingroup members. Rather than compare, they concentrate on maintaining ingroup harmony. Since the name of Japanese group game is cooperation, the individuality of the group members, their many and various talents that they can bring to the mix, are valued rather than ignored. So there is no moronic mind-merge, no hooligan herd, for the Japanese it would seem.

I love this theory and there is a lot of evidence to support it. Westerners are more likely to positively evaluate and be chummy with those that they are similar to (Heine, Foster, & Spina, 2009; Schug, Yuki, Horikawa, & Takemura, 2009), and more likely to remember information regarding inter-group rather than intra-group relationships (Takemura, Yuki, & Ohtsubo, 2010), whereas are more likely to trust someone in the same relationship network as themselves, rather than merely due to the fact of belonging to some nominal group (Yuki, Maddux, Brewer, & Takemura, 2005).

And as I have written before the emphasis for me is upon "nominal." Westerners like myself tend to conceive of others, their groups and themselves linguistically - in the latter case as having some shared characteristics. Whereas Japanese tend to conceive of groups in their imagination which results (as Lacan argues) in groups being conceived in terms of a network of binary relationships.

However, it occurred to me this morning, based upon the above argument, the group of "Americans" should also be that much more mind-merged, herdlike and amalgamous people - believing in common shared characteristics* - whereas the Japanese as a group, should, in so far as they understand themselves as a group at all, be bristling with individuals all cooperating together for the sake of synergy but never, for the sake of the same synergy, becoming the same. The motto of the Japanese group is, the words of Confuscious "harmonise not herd!" (和して同せず).

Thus in a culture with so great a respect for individuality, such as Japan under Yuki's theory, it is not surprising that "harmony" should be heralded and aspired towards. Likewise in a culture with so much mind-mulching, herdery, it is not surprising that individualism be that towards which its members are encouraged to aspire.

Does that satisfy? I think that I have gone a little too far and suggest a slight amendment to diagram (b) above. Yuki probably only drew the relationships as external to the group members in order to draw attention to them. He makes it entirely clear that intra-group attention is based upon the Interdependent model (Markus and Kitayama, 1991, diagram page 226) or in Kasulis (2010, diagram p 225) which provides philosophic, the relationships are shown interior to the selves. Implied by Yuki's analysis, I suggest therefore diagram (c) as a modification to diagram (b). Under this conception, the Japanese cease to be so radically individual, as compared to Americans, since they are aware that their individuality is fostered, created and maintained by virtue of their relationships with others which are self-forming and interpenetrate and overlap with the self.

How is this even possible? How can other person really be part of oneself? If that other person and your relationship is conceived in the visio-imaginary, then as Nishida (see Heisig, 2010) and Mach (1897), argue, it takes place in a place which is, paradoxically, both oneself and the world.

*The American Mantra: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Heine, S. J., Foster, J.-A. B., & Spina, R. (2009). Do birds of a feather universally flock together? Cultural variation in the similarity-attraction effect. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 12(4), 247–258. Retrieved from onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-839X.2009.0128...
Heisig, J. W. (2010). Nishida’s Deodorized Basho and the Scent of Zeami’s Flower. In Frontiers of Japanese Philosophy 7: Classical Japanese Philosophy (pp. 247–73). Nagoya: Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture. Retrieved from nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/staff/jheisig/pdf/Nishida%20and%20Zea...
Kasulis, T. P. (2010). Helping Western Readers Understand Japanese Philosophy. Dialogue, (34). Retrieved from nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/2124
Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review; Psychological Review, 98(2), 224. Retrieved from www.biu.ac.il/PS/docs/diesendruck/2.pdf
Schug, J., Yuki, M., Horikawa, H., & Takemura, K. (2009). Similarity attraction and actually selecting similar others: How cross-societal differences in relational mobility affect interpersonal similarity in Japan and the USA. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 12(2), 95–103.
Takemura, K., Yuki, M., & Ohtsubo, Y. (2010). Attending inside or outside: A Japanese–US comparison of spontaneous memory of group information. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 13(4), 303–307. doi:10.1111/j.1467-839X.2010.01327.x
Yuki, M. (2003). Intergroup comparison versus intragroup relationships: A cross-cultural examination of social identity theory in North American and East Asian cultural contexts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 166–183. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/1519846.pdf
Yuki, Masaki, Maddux, W. W., Brewer, M. B., & Takemura, K. (2005). Cross-cultural differences in relationship-and group-based trust. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31(1), 48–62. Retrieved from psp.sagepub.com/content/31/1/48.short

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