The cultural background of the non-academic concept of psychology in Japan: Its implications for introductory education in psychology

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Abstract

No research has empirically explored the non-academic concept of psychology itself (implicit theories) in non-Western cultures despite a widely held belief that this understanding differs cross-culturally. This study examined whether the non-academic concept of psychology among inexperienced Japanese students differed from the concept held by students of other countries. In Japanese, psychology is referred to as Symbol, which includes the ideographic character Symbol, literally meaning heart. This fact led us to hypothesize that psychology will be disproportionately associated with emotion among Japanese students. Indeed, our findings among Japanese students produced a J-curve, indicating that our prediction was true. We posit that this issue has never been discussed in Japan because a majority of people share this concept of psychology. In our second study, we examined not only preference in students' association of intelligence or emotion but also heart or mind with psychology. Finally, we identified whether students' believe that psychology encompasses both the heart and the mind. We conclude with a discussion of the importance of explicitly defining the non-academic concept of psychology in early psychology education in Japan.

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