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SOCIOCULTURAL DIFFERENCES ON HOSTILITY IN ALEXITHYMIC PERSONS
ISAO FUKUNISHI, Tokyo Institute of Psychiatry, Tokyo Japan.
TAKAHASHI HOSAKA, Department of Psychiatry, Tokai University School of Medicine, Kanagawa Japan.
DOUGLAS BERGER, Tokyo Institute of Psychiatry, Tokyo Japan, Albert Einstein of Medicine, New york U.S.A.
Psychological Reports, 1995, 77, 253-254.
Summary.-A recent comment by I. Alex Rubino on the personality correlated of alexithymia implied that there are several important areas for further discussion. Sociocultural differences in ethnicity (Japanese and Italian) may need to be taken into account for an understanding of the divergrnt findings.
We have previously reported on expression of hostile feelings in alexithymic-scoring students (3). Alexithymic-scoring students who show a lack of ability to communicate their feelings to other people were likely to indicate higher scores on the MMPI Hostility scale (1) and lower scores on the Marlow-Crowne Social Desiragility scale (8), suggesting that unfavorable expression of hostile feelings by alexithymic students may be related to their lower scores on social desirability.
Rubino's commentary (11) on the above paper (3) made important suggestions. Rubino's findings indicated a lack of significant correlation between scores on spontaneous aggression (overt expression of hostility) of the "Fragebogen zur Erfassung von Aggressivitatsfaktoren" scale (5) and Factor 2 (lack of ability to communicate feelings) of the 26-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (12). Futher, scores on Factor 3 (paucity of daydreaming ) were positively correlated with scores on the MMPI Hostility scale and negatively correlated with scores on the spontaneous aggression subscale. Rubino speculated that, if the MMPI Hostility scale is a measure of internal hostility and the spontaneous aggression subscale is a measure of expressed hostility, then this could explain the divergent findings on paucity of daydreaming.
As Rubino stated, the divergent findings may be related to sociocuitural differences between Japanese and Italians, In general, Japanese are prone to supprress aggressive or hostile behaviors because Japanese culture encourages relationships rather than individualism. Jpanese unconsciously avoid being in competitive social situations in order to maintain group harmony. The disadvantage of this is that Japanese usually follow the dictates of the group even if those dictates are maladaptive or inefficient (2). In addition, even if Japanese have aggressive or hostile feelings, they usually do not express this internal hostility outwardly unless condoned by the group as a whole (2). Several papers regarding aggressive or hostile feelings in Japanese people (2, 4, 7) have supported such an interpretation although this is not generally recognized by researchers in other countries.
Some studies (6, 9) have shown difficulties in measuring internal hostility on a self-report questionnaire such as the MMPI Hostility scale, For example, Hori, et al. (6) found that hostility measured by the MMPI Hostility scale among Japanese was not associated with coronary artery atherosclerosis. Coronary-prone behavior among Japanese resembling Type A behavior observed in Western populations is composed of three factors, 'hard-driving', 'hard-working', and 'workaholic' (7). Items related to hostility or aggression are included only in the first factor, while the other two factors are composed of attitudes for establishing one's identity through hard work and devoting oneself to the company to which one belongs. They also pointed out that there are two core components in Type A behavior, hard-driving/aggressive/hostile and hard-working/job-involvement. The former component is more often stressed in Western Type A behavior, and the latter is seen more often in Japanese Type A behavior. This may be explained partially by the idea that aggressive or hostile behaviors are avoided and suppressed in Japanese culture so that they are not so readily visible.
The possibility remains that alexithymia is a culture-bound construct, especially as the construct evolved from clinical observations made on populations in North America and Western Europe (10). Cross-cultural examinations of the construct of alexithymia may be beneficial in the interpretation of the above divergent findings.
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