EDEV_504 Week 9_1

Thanks for your excellent question about potential ‘nonconsciousnesses’ and its effect in the research design. You gave me the opportunity to study various theories of identity formation in social psychology and made this a day very full of navel gazing! To answer your question, in one respect, it seems trivial to state that researchers need to be as aware of as many aspects as possible that affect the research design. However, as you draw upon system justification theory (SJT) and social identity theory (SIT) in your question, I looked into the differences between those as well as the overlap in order to see these theories may offer clues about how I situate myself and what kind of effect that, if any, has on my research perspective.

Both SJT and SIT attempt to understand intragroup behaviour (van der Toorn & Jost, 2014) and have very similar sets of foci of investigation, such as in-group/ out-group dynamics and individual’s self-concept within a group (Brown & Capozza, 2000). The devil is in the detail, and this response is not a full exposition of the differences between these two theories. While being an oversimplification, suffice to say here that SJT may be more suitable to discover attitudes in dominant group rhetoric against change—which helps explain how the Japanese professoriate maintain hegemony—and that SIT may be useful in describing my position in relation to the ingroup. It is this position that I will develop here. According to SIT, the individual aims to enhance their self-concept through the manipulation of self-image in relation to the perceived positives and negatives in their group affiliations and the how the individual views the merits of that group in comparison to other groups (Rodriquez, 2015). If this is accurate, I should have been conditioned through the involvement in the local community of practice. However, in terms of what I research, I can only say that I have had full autonomy to research (or not) in whichever direction I felt appropriate. This facet, itself, may be a cultural norm in Japan which prides itself on academic freedom (Arimoto, Cummings, Huang, & Shin, 2015; Aspinall, 2013; Poole, 2010). Studies of ingroup favouritism have until recently focussued on Western attitudes. But a recent study argues that there is more tolerance of difference in China where self-effacing attitudes served to limit ingroup influence (Ma-Kellams, Spencer-Rodgers, & Peng, 2011). The authors claim that this attitude pervades East Asia, a claim that has some resonance in Japan (Yamada, 2014). My Japanese language ability is weak but proficient enough to fulfill committee roles. Even if I were linguistically impeccable, it is unlikely that I would ever achieve integration into the mainstream Japanese ingroups (Aspinall, 2006). The sharp end of the sword is the point that my only strategy to date has been that of exit (Rodriquez, 2015). In SIT, exit refers to leaving the group, an action that is impossible without losing my job. In my case, I found an exit strategy by distancing my academic activities from any dominant group norm. Doing that was easy; Most ‘colleagues’ were happier working in their own groups. This situation is a common one in private universities in Japan.

The implications for practitioner research are immense. On one hand, the academic freedom and social isolation allows for a free rein if a modicum of common-sense is maintained and the institution is not directly and publicly attacked. However, the scope for real and authentic change is highly restricted (at least in my experience in a small private university). When I move in a matter of weeks, these issues will be foremost in my mind. I hope and trust that the national university will be an avenue for true critical change because of the direct connection with the Ministry of Education whose recent directives have focussed on genuine improvement in attitudes to globalisation and the attendant needs for better language education and development of critical thinking skills.


Arimoto, A., Cummings, W. K., Huang, F., & Shin, J. C. (2015). The Changing Academic Profession in Japan. Cham: Springer. http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-09468-7

Aspinall, R. W. (2006). Using the paradigm of “small cultures” to explain policy failure in the case of foreign language education in Japan. Japan Forum, 18(2), 255–274. http://doi.org/10.1080/09555800600731197

Aspinall, R. W. (2013). International education policy in Japan in an age of globalisation and risk. Boston: Brill.

Brown, R., & Capozza, D. (2000). Social Identity Processes: Trends in Theory and Research. London: Sage Publications.

Ma-Kellams, C., Spencer-Rodgers, J., & Peng, K. (2011). I am against us? Unpacking cultural differences in ingroup favoritism via dialecticism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(1), 15–27. http://doi.org/10.1177/0146167210388193

Poole, G. S. (2010). The Japanese Professor: An Ethnography of a University Faculty. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Rodriquez, J. (2015). Social identity theory. In Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health. Salem Press. http://doi.org/10.1080/07351698809533738

van der Toorn, J., & Jost, J. T. (2014). Twenty years of system justification theory: Introduction to the special issue on “Ideology and system justification processes.” Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 17(4), 413–419. http://doi.org/10.1177/1368430214531509

Yamada, R. (2014). Measuring quality of undergraduate education in Japan: Comparative perspective in a knowledge based society. Singapore: Springer.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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