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.

Friday, October 25, 2013


The World Inside Out

The World Inside Out by timtak
The World Inside Out, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

Image from Voy et. al 2001, pp 57-58

That the Japanese have very little positive to say about themselves, while Americans do is one of the most robust, and well documented of cultural differences (see the irrefutable work of Steven Heine).

However, as I have demonstrate in a number of studies, when it comes to images the tables are turned. Here above is more proof, that when it comes to images, the positivity of Japanese self imagery blows that of Americans out of the water. Their authors are only seven years old but already, the Japanese are showing the self confidence that they will go on to retain throughout their lives, though they will never express it in words (rikutsu, phah, humbug).

Not only are the Japanese self-drawings more detailed, but also they are twice the size! And this despite the fact that self-image drawing size has been shown to correlate with self esteem. This has been shown in self-drawings, but also in drawings of other things. As demonstrate by Bruner and Goodman's work on the size of drawings of coins by rich children (who draw coins small) and poor children who value them and draw them big, people draw things that they think are big, and unimportant small .

Looking at their linguistic self representations, such as responses to the self-esteem scale, US respondents are about 1605 more self confident, self-valuing, than Japanese. Looking at response to this self-drawing test, the Japanese are about 160% more self-valuing as US respondents (Japanese average drawing size 18.4cm, US average drawing size 11.87).

The problem with this is that, as Derrida explains, we Westerners (and perhaps the Japanese too) are keen to believe that our own form of selfing is the only way to form a self. McAdams, Dennet, Pinker are keen to reassure us that self-narrative selves are hard-wired, that humans, where-ever they are are "homonarans" "The story-telling animal." But alas, the Japanese don't give a flying futon for narratives. They are not ego involved in their narratives.

The problem with the Japanese is that they force us to become aware that there are other ways of 'selfing', that self-narrating is contingent, that we do not have to do it. We nail ourselves to our narratives, but the Japanese are living proof that we did not have to.

Bruner, J. S., & Goodman, C. C. (1947). Value and need as organizing factors in perception. The journal of abnormal and social psychology, 42(1), 33. Retrieved from psycnet.apa.org/journals/abn/42/1/33/
La Voy, S. K., Pederson, W.C., Reitz, J.M., Brauch, A.A., Luxenburg, T.M., & Nofsinger, C.C. (2001). Children’s drawings: A cross-cultural analysis from Japan and the United States. School Psychology International, 22, 53-63.

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