同調圧力 = Peer Pressure: 日本とアメリカの違い

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Under this pandemic, how our societies apply the scientific guidelines differs from country to country. Japan and America have almost opposite reactions to the stay-in-shelter efforts.


Is this because of the difference of the nature of “peer pressure” in each country?


同調圧力:Peer pressure

When I was a university student in Japan, in a literature class, my opinion about a certain passage of a book differed from our professor. So I expressed my view, thinking it was a good thing to discuss a variety of interpretations in classes.


The professor was offended by the fact I didn’t agree with his opinion and told me that I was wrong. But I was confident that my interpretation was not wrong, but different. So I asked for other students what they thought. Nobody said anything.


In America, if you don’t express your opinion clearly, it reflects badly on you. There is peer pressure that you have to say something. So some people speak up even though they have nothing to contribute to the discussion but just to hear themselves talk.



When I think about peer pressure in English context, I tend to think that the pressure “to do” things, rather than “not to do” things. Whereas, “同調圧力” makes me think of the pressure “not to do” things rather than “to do” things.


This is just my feeling, not official differences, but certainly interesting point to ponder.



Under this pandemic, the governments need to control people’s behaviors to curb the spread of the virus. The need is purely scientifically motivated for the good of everybody. These pandemic policies are not based on ethical, moral, political values. This is not a personal concern, but a societal concern.


When everybody has to do things in a certain way, we have 2 choices: law or voluntary restriction. Isn’t it better if you can achieve a goal without laws? You still have your freedom to decide your actions, even with peer pressures.


Japan was impressive to curb the first wave of virus without any laws. When Americans are insisting on their personal rights even when you hurt others. And the virus is spreading.


Spock wearing a mask

自警団 = Vigilante

Peer pressure can be a grave problem when it becomes not just “pressures” but restrictions, more like vigilantism. That is an invasion of freedom without fair trial. We should make sure to draw a line between peer pressure and vigilantism.

同調圧力が「圧力」を超えて、「束縛」となる、「自警団」的な行動になるのは深刻な問題だ。それは公正な裁判を通さない自由の侵害である。 同調圧力と自警団的行動の区別はしっかりとつけておくべきだ


I read an interview about Corona Puritanism of a psychology professor at Tsukuba University, who coined the term “Corona Puritanism”.


His reasoning is that a professor in England said that it is best to act as if you have corona virus rather than to act to avoid it. And the Japanese professor thinks it is like the concept of “original sin” in Christianity. You should behave as if you had committed a sin.


But I have to point out the analogy isn’t an apt one. To act as if you have a virus is to think about other people. It is motivated by concerns for other people, based on science.


The original sin is a concept of guilt. It is based on religious values of individuals. The plan to stop virus does have nothing to do with one’s value and guilt.


He went on pointing out the past examples of vigilante activities as “CP” (Corona Puritanism). But Corona virus issues are not ideological but scientific. And measures to curb the pandemic are for the common good, not to suppress individual choices of values.




One thing we should be clear about this pandemic is that this is not about anything but the science of infectious virus.


In other words, mask wearing issue should not be politically charged. Stay-in-shelter policies are not about puritanical ethics or moral.


And when we talk about freedom, the important point is that whether our actions affect only ourself or they affect other people as well.


If we act considerate to other people, we don’t need laws. For that matter, we don’t even need peer pressure.