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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 11, 2015


Flashed Face Distortion Effect and Japanese Self-Caricaturization

Flashed Face Distortion Effect and Japanese Self Mangaization
The Japanese do not linguistically self enhance (Heine, Lehman, Markus, & Kitayama, 1999) and since language is generally considered to be the universal modality of self, it is often argued that the Japanese do not self enhance at all. However from inspection of their autophotography (Leuers & Sonoda, 1999), collage, and self-manga (such as those of manga artist Yoshinori Kobayashi) it seems that Japanese do enhance their visual self representations. I argue that this is due to fact that Japanese identify with self-manga but not with verbal self representations.

What is it to identify with a self-representation? Many psychologists claim that in order to have or cognise a self we need to see it from the point of view of another within self, "the generalised other" of Mead, the "super-addressee" of Bakhtin, the "alter ego" of Derrida, the "Other" of Lacan, the "impartial spectator" of Smith, "the third person perspective" of Mori (1999), and the "super ego" of Freud.

Bataille (1992, p31) for example says "We do not know ourselves distinctly and clearly until the day we see ourselves from the outside as another."

The Flashed Face Distortion (FFD) effect (Tangen, Murphy, & Thompson, 2011) is a trippy newly discovered illusion in which when faces are flashed side by side we seem distorted, to an extent in caricature (see videos here and here).

It is not clear why. I suggest that it is probably that this caricaturization of faces is not limited to times when faces are flashed, but that we become aware of the caricaturisation when faces are flashed.

Still more recent brain neuro-imaging research (Wen and Kung, 2014) finds that the FFD effect is mediated by at least two neural networks: "one that is likely responsible for perception and another that is likely responsible for subjective feelings and engagement".

Why should subjective feelings and engagement processing take place? Again, it is not clear to me, but it seems likely that "subjective feelings and engagement" would differ for ones own face as opposed to the faces of others.

I created therefore a similar video except with my own face as one of the target faces. The video is far from ideal (as you can see) but it seems that the FFD is much weaker in this situation. The face that I am comparing various versions of my own face to is only slightly distorted or caricaturized whereas my own face does not appear to be caricaturized at all. I presume that this is a function of a variation in subjective feelings and engagement, and because I do not see my own face as the face of another, and either do not bother or feel inclined to caricaturize my own face. But then, I don't think of my face is my self. I think of that which is described by my self narrative as my self.

I hypothesize that from the way in which Japanese enhance their self representations, from the way it is claimed that their "mask" is the centre of their persona (Watsuji, 2011), and from in their self-enhancing self-manga ("jimanga") that Japanese will feel the Flashed Face Distortion (Tangen, Murphy, & Thompson, 2011) effect even when watching a video of their own faces. This is because they are seeing their own face as another and this is, paradoxically, a condition of seeing ones face as ones "self."

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Takemoto, T. (2002). 鏡の前の日本人. In 選書メチエ編集部, ニッポンは面白いか (講談社選書メチエ. 講談社.
Tangen, J. M., Murphy, S. C., & Thompson, M. B. (2011). Flashed face distortion effect: Grotesque faces from relative spaces. Perception-London, 40(5), 628. Retrieved from expertiseandevidence.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/TanMu...
Tversky, B., & Baratz, D. (1985). Memory for faces: Are caricatures better than photographs? Memory & Cognition, 13(1), 45–49. Retrieved from link.springer.com/article/10.3758/BF03198442
Wen, T., & Kung, C. C. (2014). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to explore the flashed face distortion. Retrieved from jov.arvojournals.org/data/Journals/JOV/933545/i1534-7362-...
Watsuji, T. (2011). Mask and Persona. Japan Studies Review, 15, 147–155. Retrieved from asian.fiu.edu/projects-and-grants/japan-studies-review/jo...

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