Renowned for its hospitality, Japan is getting ready for more omotenashi as it prepares for the Olympic and Paralympic games. However, is Japan really a helpful nation? Are the Japanese compassionate people? This presentation provides evidence that, in Japan, the decision to help a stranger depends heavily on what the situation dictates. To avoid the embarrassment of appearing meddlesome, the Japanese are less likely to intervene when the need of help is ambiguous, rather than clear. Further research shows that people who pursue compassionate goals to support others’ well-being are more likely to help, whereas those who pursue the goals to avoid projecting a negative image of the self are less likely to help. These findings suggest that helping could be promoted by encouraging people to shift their focus from questioning “what will I get?” to “what can I give?” Additionally, I will present recent findings that suggest that despite spending more time on others, those with compassionate goals experience greater time affluence and subjective well-being. The more strongly people pursue the goals to support others, the more they offer help and the happier they are.
Dr Yu Niiya is a Professor in the Department of Global and Interdisciplinary Studies (GIS) at Hosei University, Tokyo. She received her MA from the University of Tokyo and her PhD from the University of Michigan in social psychology. Dr Niiya’s research interests lie in the exploration of whether a compassionate mindset can encourage people to overcome their hesitation to take risks. For example, she is currently investigating how having compassionate goals (i.e., the goals to support others) and self-image goals (i.e., the goals to project a desirable image of the self, such as appearing helpful) predict the extent to which people express dissent toward the group they belong to or the extent to which they will offer help to a stranger. Furthermore, she has worked on what enables people to learn from failure, the positive relational consequences of adult’s amae, and many cross-cultural studies on various topics. She has been a PI (principal investigator) and collaborator on many Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI) projects for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. She is also an associate editor for the Asian Journal of Social Psychology and the Japanese Journal of Social Psychology.