Notes on social psychology

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Shinobu Kitayama's Poster

There is something strang about the effect of a certain poster as pointed out by Shinobu Kitayama.

Shinobu Kitayam suggests that while the Japanese do not normall feel cognitive dissonance, they do feel dissonance in front of the poster, as a result of feeling the gaze of others.

If Japan is an interdependent society however, one would expect them to care less and less about "dissonance" the more they feel that other people are watching them. The French novelist, Michel_Louyot, used to say, perceptively, that Japanese people change the ends of their sentences, and their opinions, to match the expression and the desire of the other that faces them.

In Kitayama's experiment he finds that in front of a poster displaying a lot of eyes, Japanese attempted to achieve "self-consistence" in so far as they made their preference towards CDs consistent with their choice of CD, by "spreading their alternatives" and lauding their chosen CD while trashing the non-chosen CD.

The Japnaese self-enhanced in front of the poster. This seems very un-interdendent. A seemingly interdependent prime, resulted in the standard American, independent response.

Imagine asking, "Do you like the CD you have just chosen?" Then put the Japanese person on a stage, in front of a lot of people. What is that Japanese person likely to say? 1) Yes. I really like it. I don't like the others. 2) Well it is okay.

It seems to me that in the main, many Japanese people would be more likely to self-efface the more people are looking at them, and say something along the lines of (2), I think, but the poster makes them respond as in (1).

Possible explanations:

1) Because they have greater desire to show their gratitude to the experimenter that gave it to them. Upon reflection, this seems quite possible.

2) Because they feel guilty about accepting one of the last two CD's and say that they really like it as a way of saying sorry to other subsequent participants. I have heard this sort of explanation of the reasons why Asians choose coloured pencils that are in the majority, as opposed to in a unique colour - they want to leave the unique colour - or the last bit of cake - to subsequent choosers. I wish I knew the reference for that latter piece of research.

3) Because Japanese people are reacting against the inderdependence enhancing prime.

4) Because the poster is an image and not the reality, and because the image may draw attention to the fact that the reality is absent. After all, as Barthes points out, the sign has the structure of an alibi:-) But that would suggest that Japanese have a different attitude towards images.

5) Or it could be as Shinobu Kitayama argues. Perhaps the important point is that the poster shows a variety of expressions. Since there are a variety of expressions, the subjects feel that they can not harmonise with those that are watching them, so they feel the inclination to harmonise with their choice? Hmm....

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