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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.

Monday, February 17, 2014


The One Ring Scam from Hell

The One Ring Scam from Hell by timtak
The One Ring Scam from Hell, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
It is Quiet in Hell (300)

Missed call scams, where criminals ring mobile phones for one ring, then cut off in the hope that the receiver will ring back and be connected to a number that costs them money, have just hit the USA in early 2014 (CNN Money, KLTV, CBNC). They had a very brief life in the UK in 2004(BBC). But as any Japanese mobile phone user (over the age of about 30) is aware, "one ring scams" (Or "wan giri" one (ring and) cut=kiri) have a far longer history. The one ring scam (wangiriワンギリ) originated in Japan at about the turn of the millennium, and were still prevalent at least in 2013 (see mobile phone au carrier's warning, in Japanese, update history).

The Japanese are generally so honest (at least according to OECD crime statistics) and cautious (e.g. with higher "uncertainty avoidance", Hofstede, 1980) than other nations. The Japanese are so bright and bushy tailed, it is strange that a scam of this type should originate in the land of the rising sun.

That these calls started in Japan is I feel because the Japanese are more susceptible. Japanese people are more likely to see that missed call and ring back. Is it because the Japanese are more polite, feeling obliged to respond to missed calls? Or is it that Westerners can rely on genuine callers leaving voice-mail, but the shy, and somewhat tongue-tied Japanese can not. These are probably both part of the motivation, but I think that something else is going on. As a Texas TV station opines.,"They [the scammers] are preying on the victim's curiosity," and the Japanese are that much more curious about missed phone calls. This is because, I believe, Japan is, collectively, missing a phone call, missing a connection.

As often argued on this blog the main difference between the psychology of Japanese and Westerners is in the medium of their "generalised other." Western psychologists argue that humans, or at least all Westerners, have or have simulated an imaginary friend (Wyndham, 1968) in their head. If you are Christian you believe that you have a friend in Jesus, and a psychic hot-line to God. If you are a Western psychologist then you theorise this entity in secular terms as a "super ego" (Freud, 1913) Other (Lacan, 1967 [2007]), alter ego (Derrida, 1978) "generalised other" (Mead, 1967), "impartial spectator" (Smith, 1812; see also Brat, 2005) "super addressee" (Bakhtin, 1986. p126).

Taking the last example, Bakhtin was a Russian literary critic who dabbled in psychology (and inspired a branch of psychology: Hermans and Kempen, 1993), He argues that language is always understood in dialogue. Even when we are on our own we imagine how our statements would be understood by those to whom we will address them. Bakhtin goes on to say, since the self is also understood via self-speech, if we were incapable of understanding who we ourselves are without real others, we would be in hell. We would be continually dependent upon the understanding of whomever we are talking, or plan to talk, to. If we are not understood then we would not understand ourselves. Our meaning, our thoughts, and desires, would be lost in a fog of confusion. Fortunately, Bakhtin says (along with all the other Western commentators) even when we are talking to someone present, and more so when we are on our own, we are always also 'talking off' to a super-addressee. Taking the metaphor of email, Bakhtin argues we are always also sending a "BCC" - by mistake or on purpose - to one of our parents, or God.

As argued by Mori Arimasa (1999) , and myself, in Japan there is no such generalised ear of the Other. Japanese people just talk to other people. They send just email to other people. They do not absent mindedly BCC. Their words are for, and only for, the person that they are sent to. Japan is therefore a Western hell, since the Japanese are not wired up to the ear in the sky. Yahew-san's phone is off the hook. There is nothing but 'Silence,' (Or perhaps white noise. c.f. the phone call that Sanada Hrioyuki's role receives before he he is visited by the Other from the image - Sadako!).

Lacking a psychic hot-line, the Japanese are I argue, that much more curious about missed calls. "One day someone is going to phone", they think. One day they will be connected. And this is why the one ring scam works that much better on Japanese and is (or was, even the Japanese tire of it) that much more prevalent. It is probably also linked to Japanese susceptibility to that other form of Japanese scam "Its me, its me" (ore ore) phone calls. The Japanese are, in the solitude of their silence, always hoping that someone who loves them and needs them, will ring them up.

Fortunately, the Japanese are not in Japanese hell at all because they have another type of more maternal, impartial spectator or super-addressee: Mirrors in their Heads (Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008).

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. (V. W. McGee, Trans., C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Eds.) (Second Printing.). University of Texas Press.
Brat, D. (2005). Adam Smith’s God: The End of Economics. Virginia Economic Journal, 59. Retrieved from faculty.rmc.edu/dbrat/researchpapers/2005VAEAdamSmithPape...
Derrida, J. (1978). Edmund Husserl’s origin of geometry: An introduction. U of Nebraska Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=pW9PQxAOo0sC&oi=fnd&pg=PP9&dq=Origin+of+Geometry&ots=cxr_EUp0d5&sig=8cjF6mBUi60BuZEUBK_0blBL1sUFreud, S. (1913). Totem and taboo. (A. A. Brill, Trans.). New York: Moffat, Yard and Company. Retrieved from en.wikisource.org/wiki/Totem_and_Taboo
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
Hermans, H. J. M., & Kempen, H. J. G. (1993). The Dialogical Self: Meaning as Movement. Academic Press.
Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations (2nd ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.
Lacan, J. (2007). Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English. (B. Fink, Trans.) (1st ed.). W W Norton & Co Inc.
Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 1). The University of Chicago Press.
Smith, A. (1812). The theory of moral sentiments. Retrieved from books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=d-UUAAAAQAA...
Wyndham, J. (1968). Chocky.
Mori, A. 森有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房.

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