Nakayama, M.(中山真孝), & Uchida, Y.(内田由紀子) (2020).
Meaning of awe in Japanese (con) text: Beyond fear and respect.
Psychologia. 62(1)

Awe is theorized as an emotion appraised by perceived vastness and need for accommodation. This theoretical framework was developed with a review of spatially and temporally distributed literature mostly in the American and European cultural context, and is assumed to be culturally universal. However, awe as described by Japanese literature, was not explicitly included in the original theorization. We tested whether this framework generalized to the Japanese context by analyzing how Japanese awe-related words (e.g., “畏敬/ikei”) are used in Japanese text. A topic model was used to extract topics in contexts as an index of meaning. Results show that (1) the meaning of awe was statistically dissociable from similar but distinct meanings of fear and respect, and (2) the dissociating topics included transcendent entities such as god, spirits/ghosts, and powerful beings. Japanese meaning of awe includes vastness (i.e., transcendence) that goes beyond typical respect (i.e., power distance) requiring an accommodation of one’s mental framework.