Professor Asako Miura, Graduate School of Human Sciences
“We are all human – accepting and collaborating”
In her most recent work, Dr. Miura, a social psychologist, covered people’s psychological behaviors on social media. The article, entitled “ How dangerous news spreads: What makes Twitter users retweet risk-related information ” , was published early this year and revealed how information related to potential dangers can spread on social media and how this spread can be prevented. Given the findings in this study and the current COVID-19 crisis, a situation the world has never before experienced and with no clear end in sight, news relating to this “dreadful” phenomenon seems to be caught and spread by people who are looking for information to substantiate it.
Researchers around the world unite against COVID-19
Following this study, Dr. Miura and her research team are now taking part in a large international research project on the social psychological impact caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, covering 40 countries. Dr. Miura is taking part in this project together with her colleagues both inside and outside of the country, with whom she connected and networked using social media tools. Japan has not previously been actively involved in such international research projects in her fields, but she expects that this opportunity will expand avenues for more participation in such collaborations.
Negative capabilities – what we now need to overcome the crisis
In her current research project, Dr. Miura conducted a comparative survey in Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy and China from March to April. One feature in particular that was found was that Japan has the highest figure in terms of relative assessment among the other countries surveyed in choosing affirmative answers for the questions “If you found people being infected you would think it is his/her fault,” and “You think that people who were infected deserve it.” This result complies with the past claims in Dr. Miura’s research comparing Japanese people with westerners, in which she has been striving to unravel why certain features are found more in Japan than in other countries. Although this phenomenon has been yet to be fully elucidated, she mentions that it might be due to the “just-world hypothesis,” which is the idea that people expect their society to be stable and ordered and tend to think that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people . This idea puts people in a mentally stable state. COVID-19 is something yet unknown to us, which makes it difficult to predict what will happen next. This uncertainty may elicit strong tendencies toward the belief that the people infected deserved it. By doing so, we are eager to escape from this fear and unease and sometimes, these emotions cause us to distort the truth towards what they wish to believe. However, the truth may be different for every person and may also change as time goes. The only truth unchanged is that we are all human. Humans sometimes show irrational behaviors without self-awareness, particularly when they find themselves in circumstances that they have never experienced, much like COVID-19. Now we need negative capability in accepting this incompleteness so that we can avoid responding to unknown experience with too much fear or anger, which will be a key to overcoming these uncertain times.
 M. Komori et al. Spread of risk information through microblogs: Twitter users with more mutual connections relay news that is more dreadful. Japanese Psychological Research 631.DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jpr.12272 .
 American Psychological Association https://dictionary.apa.org/just-world-hypothesis
Subtitle: Japan’s situation