By ERIC NAGOURNEY
How do you know how someone is feeling? For people in Western societies, it is usually easy: look at the person’s face.
But for people from Japan and other Eastern societies, a new study finds, it may be more complex — having to do not only with evaluating the other person’s face but also with gauging the mood of others who might be around.
The differences may speak to deeply ingrained cultural traits, the authors write, suggesting that Westerners may “see emotions as individual feelings, while Japanese see them as inseparable from the feelings of the group.”
This greater sensitivity of the Japanese to other people's feelings, this greater discomfort when other people are not comfortable, may help explain the relative lack of recognized geniuses in Japanese culture. In the West, for every nice guy genius like Darwin, there at least one total jerk genius like Rousseau. (And, yes, Rousseau was a genius, pioneering several different ways European culture would head.) Self-absorption is a big part of Western culture, but not Japanese culture, but it helps move the West out of mutual comfort zones that the Japanese tend to prefer dwelling in.