Selected Readings on Taijin Kyofusho and Hikikomori

On Taijin Kyofusho

Norasakkunkit, V., Kitayama, S., & Uchida, Y. (2012). Social Anxiety and Holistic Cognition: Self-Focused Social Anxiety in the United States and Other-Focused Social Anxiety in Japan. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 43(5), 742–757.

This study attempts to unpack the cultural differences in Taijin Kyofusho (other-focused social anxiety) symptom levels by looking at the relationship between cognitive trait levels and measures of other- and  Western-typical social anxiety (self-focused social anxiety) in a Japanese and American sample. More specifically, it look at how trait levels of holistic cognition, usually associated with interdependent self-construals, and trait levels of analytic cognition, usually associated with independent self-construals, work together to predict levels of other- and self-focused anxiety scores. The attempt is to use these factors to account for the variance in other- & self-focused social anxiety beyond the factor of culture, thereby attempting to unpack culture.

Sato, K., Yuki, M., & Norasakkunkit, V. (2014). A Socio-Ecological Approach to Cross-Cultural Differences in the Sensitivity to Social Rejection: The Partially Mediating Role of Relational Mobility. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45(10), 1549–1560.

In this study, the researchers investigate the differential levels in rejection anxiety and taijin kyofusho symptoms in Western and East Asian cultures from a socio-ecological perspective. The socio-ecological perspective understands societies and cultures a dynamic systems which impose restrictions on individuals’ modes of attaining and maintaining psychological well-being (paralleling an organism’s need to operate in accordance to its ecosystem to obtain and maintain homeostasis). From this perspective, they investigate how the elevated East Asian levels in taijin kyofusho and rejection anxiety may be products of the need for elevated levels in the investigated etiological factors of these as a consequence of the culturally provided levels in relational mobility.

On hikikomori.

Toivonen, T., Norasakkunkit, V., & Uchida, Y. (2011). Unable to conform, unwilling to rebel? Youth, culture, and motivation in globalizing Japan. Frontiers in Psychology, 2(09), 207.

This study describes and situates the Hikikomori phenomenon in terms of the interaction of the culturally imposed demands and the underlying psychological motivational dynamics affecting these Japanese youth. Japan is understood as a socio-cultural ecosystem where traditional cultural demands of individual conformity intersects with the means provided by the modern global marketplace to meet these demands. This tension between the Japanese cultural demands and the means shaped by economic globalization are also analyzed to predict and explain the societal trends in how the Japanese youth differentially cope with this tension from the perspective psychological perspective of the Japanese youth.

Uchida, Y., & Norasakkunkit, V. (2015). The NEET and Hikikomori spectrum : Assessing the risk and consequences of becoming culturally marginalized. 6(August), 1–11.

In this study, the authors seek to provide an understanding of the NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) and hikikomori phenomena beyond the existing categorical perspectives. The authors offer an understanding of NEET and Hikikomori as being conceptually similar in terms of the underlying psychological risk factors and they, therefore, propose NEET and hikikomori as existing within a spectrum of syndromes which are precipitated by similar psychological risk factors within given socio-cultural pressures. To this end, this study is for the development the NEET/Hikikomori Risk Scale (NHRS). The scale is shown to be sensitive to the underlying psychological tendencies which may lead to NEET/hikikomori without explicitly detecting NEET and hikikomori themselves, nor to the broader social factors. In this sense the NHRS is a tool that is sensitive to the individual level risks of NEET/hikikomori and this tool’s use is specified for the purpose of the study of NEET/hikikomori as a socio-cultural phenomenon whose consequential psychopathological instantiations can be understood in terms of psychological risk factors. The scale outcomes may be understood and studied both in the form of a total score, or as scores at the level of its factors.

Norasakkunkit, V., & Uchida, Y. (2014). To Conform or to Maintain Self-Consistency? Hikikomori Risk in Japan and the Deviation From Seeking Harmony. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 33(10), 918–935.

Some have suggested that there may be a link between Hikikomori and autism where those suffering from Hikikomori are not attuned to the culturally demanded levels of integration as a consequence of autism-related social deficiencies. In this study, Norasakkunkit explore this possibility in a Japanese university sample by testing whether high scorers on a hikikomori test differ significantly from low scorers on measures on perceived societal, self, and ideal-self levels of harmony seeking—the valuing of healthy collectivist social dynamics. Their argument is that if there is a tendency towards autism spectrum symptoms, then the perceived societal levels of harmony seeking should be different for the high hikikomori risk group indicating a possible deficiency in the ability to perceive socially appropriate levels of harmony seeking behavior–as would predict the autism theory of hikikomori. Contrasting this is the hypothesis that the hikikomori represent a reactive social movement against the emerging socio-cultural conflicts in modern Japanese society. In this way, this research builds on Toivonen, Nora, and Uchida (2011) by further exploring the theory of the hikikomori as a reactionary movement against global forces by testing for the autism-theory social deficiencies of the Japanese hikikomori youth.