Engagement key to eliminating prejudice: Uncovering the process of feeling understood

In interpersonal relationships, people sometimes perceive that the other person understands them. When people feel this way, they are more willing to engage with the other person, but the reasons for this were not well understood. This study reveals that the psychological process for this feeling largely depends on a reduction in prejudice towards the other person. The results of this study may help us understand the psychological process behind reducing discrimination.

Image of a situation where a friend does not understand you.

Osaka, Japan - A research group at Osaka University has uncovered how the view of other people and groups changes when individuals feel that they are understood by others by conducting an experimental study on the relationship between Japanese and Chinese people. The study shows that the role of felt understanding largely derives from a reduction in prejudice toward the other person.

Feeling understood by other people is a crucial determinant for positive interpersonal and intergroup relationships; however, the psychology behind this determinant was not well understood.

In this study, Drs. Tomohiro Ioku and Eiichiro Watanabe at Osaka University manipulated psychological processes of felt understanding in the context of East Asia, more specifically between Japanese and Chinese people.

The extent to which Japanese people want to approach Chinese people when they read an article describing Chinese understandings about Japan (vs. misunderstandings). The higher the dots, the stronger the intention to approach Chinese people.

The results showed for the first time that in intergroup relationships, people are more willing to engage with their counterparts when they feel understood, primarily because it reduces their prejudice.

Estimated indirect effects via felt positive regard, intergroup overlap, and stereotypes. The further to the right, the larger the indirect effect.

The issue of discrimination against foreigners is often discussed in media. Based on the results of this study, such discrimination problems could be reduced if foreigners learn the local language and communicate their understanding of the country. For example, the Centre for International Education and Exchange at Osaka University runs J-ShIP programs for learning Japanese (https://ciee.osaka-u.ac.jp/en/short-term_programs/new-short-term-programs/). More media features on similar programs and initiatives could help reduce discrimination issues in the long term.

The article, “An experimental study of the process of felt understanding in intergroup relations: Japanese and Chinese relations in Japan,” was published in Scientific Reports at DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-63227-0

About Osaka University
Osaka University was founded in 1931 as one of the seven imperial universities of Japan and is now one of Japan's leading comprehensive universities with a broad disciplinary spectrum. This strength is coupled with a singular drive for innovation that extends throughout the scientific process, from fundamental research to the creation of applied technology with positive economic impacts. Its commitment to innovation has been recognized in Japan and around the world. Now, Osaka University is leveraging its role as a Designated National University Corporation selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to contribute to innovation for human welfare, sustainable development of society, and social transformation.
Website: https://resou.osaka-u.ac.jp/en

Published: 10 Jun 2024


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Global Strategy Unit

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The Japanese Group Dynamics Association