Report on a presentation at the 81st Annual Convention of the Japanese Psychological Association
The Japan–US comparison of trait shyness: Is it still true that "Japanese people are shy?"

From September 20 to 22, 2017, I participated and gave a presentation at the 81st Annual Convention of the Japanese Psychological Association (JPA) held in Kurume City, together with Dr. Aikawa and fellow researcher Mr. Sawaumi.

Because the JPA has many members, a huge "box (building)" and a number of personnel are necessary for organizing its annual meetings. Regardless of such an enormous workload, however, the professors and staff of the organizer Kurume University paid very careful attention to each detail, in order to ensure smooth operations at the meeting. Thanks to their efforts, I was able to enjoy giving my presentation. Personally, I was also happy with the location, as I could go there by land, instead of flying, which is always a struggle.

Ordinarily, at academic meetings, I collect information at the venues for poster and oral presentations. This time, however, I actively participated in the international award presentations, lectures by guest speakers, and various symposia. They were all interesting, but the last symposium on licensed psychologists was particularly impressive. The participants were discussing that "In order to nurture licensed psychologists, researchers in universities should become able to work on a wider range of fields. It is not an era anymore that we can just concentrate on individual expertise." I felt that those discussions and information disclosures of recent years, regarding licensed psychologists, are not topics of interest for exam takers only, as these can be turning points also for us, faculty members. I was particularly inspired by the sharing that "those who aim to become researchers and those who aim to become licensed psychologists are studying together; it is problematic to build a teaching system that suits each purpose," and "specialized universities shouldn't aim only to provide trainings for license acquisition."

I gave a presentation on research conducted by CRET Aikawa Lab, entitled "The Japan-US comparison of trait shyness: Is it still true that 'Japanese people are shy?'" on September 21. The venue was a bit small, and I felt an air of excitement. However, I thought it was good because it means that we have a great number of audience members, and this is something typical about academic meetings.

The content of my presentation was, as captioned in the subtitle, about whether Japanese people still exhibit a higher degree of shyness than American people, as was the case 40 years ago. Shyness is the degree of being introverted, and it has been so considered that Japanese people have higher shyness than Americans. So, 40 years after the initial study, we conducted a Japan–US comparison to see what the situation is today.

As a short summary, the answer is, "Japanese people are still shy." We conducted an online survey of about 1,400 subjects respectively in Japan and in the States and compared the degree of shyness as a trait. Consequently, the following four points were found:

(1) Overall, Japanese possess a higher degree of shyness than Americans.

(2) Overall, females possess a higher degree of shyness than males.

(3) The shyness of females is higher than that of males in the States but shows no difference in Japan

(4) Both Japanese males and females possess a higher degree of shyness than Americans.

All our findings matched with those of 40 years ago. We may conclude that Japanese people are still as shy as in the past, while the definition of being shy may have changed in both countries. Our previous researches showed that "the image that Japanese people have for shyness is getting more positive" and "more American people tend to have a positive image toward shyness." The latter findings of the two above were particularly surprising for many people including me, which could be crucial to interpreting the results of this research. In response to many comments from audience members, I would like to write a paper on this research.

I have been a member of the JPA for ten years. Recently, I have received various updates that evoke an indefinable feeling, usually in response to the transfer of my old friends or acquaintances, whom I haven't met for years, to other universities. I also hear something like my young friends finally got a job. Yet, there is one thing that never changes, which is the stimulation I gain from academic meetings. In my current position at a university, I am getting busier bit by bit, and have less and less time to work on my papers. Still, I want to hold on to this feeling of stimulation carefully and write papers from tomorrow (no, today).


The Japan-US comparison of trait shyness: Is it still true that "Japanese people are shy?" 

(Tsutomu Inagaki, Takafumi Sawaumi, and Atsushi Aikawa)

(Tsutomu Inagaki, CRET Researcher)

Tsutomu Inagaki (Fujii)

CRET Researcher / Lecturer, Kagoshima University


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