Search form

How fear is changing societies: Humboldt Research Award winner to conduct research at Jacobs University


May 30, 2018

He is considered to be one of the world's leading scientists in the field of comparative cultural psychology. Prof. Dr. Shinobu Kitayama has now received the Humboldt Research Award for his work. The prize money of 60,000 euros is linked to a research collaboration with a German scientist. Kitayama is joining this project with Dr. Ulrich Kühnen, Professor of Psychology and Head of the Master's program in Psychology at Jacobs University Bremen.

In his research work in Bremen, Kitayama looks at social upheavals in numerous Western democracies: "We will combine methods of social and behavioral sciences with those of neuroscience and examine how deep anxiety associated with declining trust in social institutions might fuel prejudice, dogmatic thinking, and even aggression and violence."

Shinobu Kitayama hails from Japan and lectures in the USA at the University of Michigan. He has made a name for himself in particular through his work on differences in the thinking and behavior of people from Western and Asian cultures. According to Kitayama, in Western cultures the individual is usually strongly defined by their individuality and thereby their differences to other people. The self-concept of Asians, on the other hand, is usually more strongly influenced by their relationship with other people, for example by their belonging to a group or their role in the family.

Kitayama speaks of an independent or interdependent understanding of personalities. Westerners therefore express independence through their decisions. They see their decision-making as a way of signaling their own uniqueness to their environment. Asians, on the other hand, are more inclined to make decisions not as individuals but in groups, i.e. interdependently. Understanding these differences is relevant both for basic research on the influence of culture on human activity and in applied psychology.

Shinobu Kitayama will first come to Jacobs University for a short visit in December and research and lecture at the international university for several months in 2018 and 2019. "I am excited and honored to have an opportunity to work with Professor Kuhnen and other colleagues at Jacobs University," he says. Ulrich Kühnen is also pleased about the renowned guest scientist’s visit: "Shinobu Kitayama’s findings have strongly influenced my own research," he says. "Especially in an increasingly networked world, it is important that psychology contributes to understanding cultural differences and similarities. With his intercultural research profile, Professor Kitayama is an excellent fit for our international university, and I am sure that he will enrich our research work and our psychology courses with valuable insights".