Editorial, April 2021
“Understanding the past, gaining the new”
–Paraphrased from the Analects of Confucius
Psychologia has a long history of more than 60 years as an international journal of psychology. Over the course of this long history, we have witnessed a lot of change in the world of research and academia. One notable change has been the trend toward “subdividing” and increasing specialization within a discipline. In psychology, for example, we currently have different sub-fields, such as “developmental,” “social,” “cultural,” “cross-cultural,” “cognitive,” or “clinical” psychology. Within each sub-field, specialized terms, theories, and methods are used to study human behavior. This shift is also reflected in the emergence of more and more specific sections of professional associations and conferences, which allow for intensive discourse focusing on particular theoretical or methodological approaches.
While this kind of “localization” or “specialization” can aid scientific progress, this shift also risks losing something equally critical to scientific progress: the so-called “big picture.” While the methods and theories used may differ across fields and even sub-fields, we ultimately share a common goal: to know about human beings, their functioning, their societies, and their relationships with nature and other species on the planet. To really answer this “big picture” question, we need to integrate evidence and knowledge across disciplines.
Regarding the situation in Japan, the humanities and social sciences may, at times, appear to have a reduced presence or sense of power in the eyes of the average person outside academia, particularly when compared to the natural sciences. This is because the humanities and social sciences usually seek a broad sense of “truth” and utilize longer perspectives (sometimes over 100 years), often via long-term research projects. Sometimes, such research is regarded as “useless” for making short-term and urgent decisions for competitive industries, such as marketing. However, we face a myriad of social challenges. In addition to challenges related to our planet, including climate change, natural disasters, disease, and the emergence of new pathogens, there are also challenges related to our societies and manmade institutions, such as inequity, poverty, discrimination, and xenophobia. As the COVID-19 pandemic has made all too clear, these challenges dynamically interact with and compound one another. In response to these complex challenges, there have been calls for reintegration across research with longer perspectives.
There is no more important time to firmly answer this call than now. To address these problems effectively, academic fields will have to work together, utilizing a holistic perspective, in order to fully capture the complex relationships underlying these phenomena. Looking to other disciplines can expand our thinking within our own discipline, as it broadens the ideas, theories, and methods available to us. Our understanding of current human behavior, psychology, mind, and cognition is enriched when we can place it within the context of human history, and human history becomes more accessible to us when we think about how humans behave and think now. Cognitive archaeology is a prime example of a new interdisciplinary field to emerge from this perspective. In short, we need to integrate our research orientation and lean on each other more and more, forming a broader perspective on the study of the human mind and society.
Based on this perspective, Psychologia will do its part to answer the call by undergoing a renewal in 2021. This renewal will result in a broader-scoped Psychologia, one that publishes scientific findings and answers questions about human beings, their societies, and their relationships with nature and other species on the planet. Of course, I recognize that the methods and theories within each of these academic areas have evolved, accumulated, and been transmitted within each field for decades, so it will take time to realize a truly integrated journal with high-quality articles. However, if we do not face this challenge head-on, the development of an interdisciplinary science cannot be actualized, shirked in perpetuity. As such, I am sure we can meet this challenge in Psychologia, which has a history from 1957 and holds knowledge deeply rooted in the world-wide history of philosophy, including Eastern philosophy, such as Nishida’s philosophy which originated at Kyoto University.
For this purpose, I would like to propose two new elements for Psychologia: “keywords” and “frameworks”. Keywords will be used to tag articles based on their general components and can be free of domain-specific terminology. Thus, we will be able to examine perspectives on a single topic across academic disciplines by grouping articles under keywords. For example, the keyword “wellbeing” can capture articles from many fields, including economics, social psychology, health psychology, and political science. Second, we also need frameworks. A specific academic discipline or sub-field may use a specific or unique framework, theoretical lens, and methodological techniques. For example, economics might approach wellbeing by comparing nation-level aggregated variables, such as gross domestic product, equity indices, and welfare systems, whereas social psychology might examine wellbeing through self-reported subjective evaluations an individual person holds about his/her life or through emotions evoked by experimental manipulations in the lab. Thus, each discipline – or even each researcher – utilizes their own framework to identify the important research questions related to a keyword. Through the complementary functions of keywords and frameworks, our diverse disciplines can work together, moving beyond the trend toward hyper-specialization.
Thus, Psychologia can be a good home for research that attempts to go beyond existing frameworks and backgrounds, based on collaboration and co-creation. From its 2021 renewal, Psychologia welcomes articles which contribute to the collective, broadened conversation on research. Just as the Japanese word kokoro holistically captures the inseparable integration and interplay among mind, body, and soul, Psychologia will be a journal for holistically integrating the study of humans, mindsets, and societies. Of course, Psychologia’s core concept since its inception remains: it is a journal to study human behavior including psychological processes and social problems. The core vision throughout our journal’s history – “What is human?” “What are our psychological functions?” – remains at the heart of Psychologia’s renewal, recognizing that human behavior and psychology are in themselves multi-faceted, dynamic topics. Thus, Psychologia can be more interdisciplinary than other journals while remaining true to its core concept. With our new editorial team, we are doing our best to contribute to the research community, to foster a collaborative spirit, and to improve our world.
In addition, we welcome manuscripts from non-WEIRD societies. WEIRD research – referring to research from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic societies – has become a major point of contemporary discussion (Henrich et al., 2010). Arnett (2008) suggested that more than 70% of all articles published in top psychological journals have research data sampled from WEIRD societies, despite these societies only representing about 5% of the world’s population. Because of this overrepresentation, as social scientists, we still cannot know the full spectrum or general principles of human behaviors and psychological tendencies in the world. By historically formulating general principles of human behavior, society, and cognition from WEIRD data, we have essentially created a “colonization” of our field. It goes without saying that in order to get to the heart of Psychologia’s core concepts, we must look at the full spectrum of human experience – in other cultural environments beyond the WEIRD. It is Psychologia’s mission to strongly support internationalization, carrying on the journal’s perspective from the Orient since its inception. In particular, the cultural interdependence and cooperation rooted in Asian societies may play an important role in building sustainable societies for the world’s future.
To close, I sincerely thank Professor Sakiko Yoshikawa, the former Editor in Chief of Psychologia, for not only continuing this journal’s legacy, but also expanding upon it, such as by attracting a larger audience through stimulating special issues. I now continue her endeavors and efforts to promote fruitful connections between Eastern and Western social scientists. I hope that Psychologia will develop as a journal carrying both the weight of its core historical mission and of our accumulating academic history into the future.
Yukiko Uchida, Editor in Chief
Arnett, J. J. (2008). The neglected 95%: Why American psychology needs to become less American. American Psychologist, 63(7), 602–614. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.63.7.602
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2–3), 61–83. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X0999152X