Our research interests have focused primarily on the dynamic and mutually influencing relationships between individuals and social relations. Our viewpoint is different from the traditional individualistic paradigm, in which the social environment was simply a "factor" influencing individuals. We attempt to reveal how the macro-, i.e., societal, collective, or relational level of phenomena and the micro-, or psychological processes interact with each other. More specifically, we are focusing on interpersonal relationships, group structures, and cultures.
Some recent work concerns cultural differences on achievement attribution. In cross-cultural research, self-serving bias in the West and self-effacing bias in East Asia in attribution have often been emphasized. We, however, pose a question to this simple dichotomy and present some empirical evidence for indirect self-enhancement among Japanese. In Muramoto (2003), for example, Japanese respondents were asked to list their important success and failure in life and to attribute these events to various internal and external factors. Results showed that Japanese tended to make self-effacing attributions for their success and failure, as found in previous research. At the same time, however, it was also revealed that Japanese expected their parents, siblings, and close friends to make supportive "other-serving" attributions, i.e., internal attributions for their success and external attributions for their failure. In addition, the respondents tended to believe that the close others understand them very well, and they wanted to let the others know their success and failure. These results suggest that Japanese would not try to enhance or protect their self-esteem explicitly, but that they would do so implicitly by using an indirect way. Self-enhancement may not necessarily an individual's internal process, but an interactive and social process: Individuals appear to maintain their own positive self-regard by mutual and reciprocal support with their ingroup members.
We think that cultural differences we see are not a simple reflection of different "selves", but of different fabrics of "relationships" in which people are involved in each culture. This work will be extended to include a comparison among different types of relationships within a culture and between cultures.