What is the Rashomon Effect?

The Rashomon Effect
The Rashomon Effect

A samurai was found dead in a quiet bamboo garden. The only known witnesses to the crime are recounting their own versions of the event that took place.
But as each tells their story, each statement turns out to be plausible but different. Each witness immerses himself in the story he is telling. In our article, we would like to touch on the subject of "What is the Rashomon Effect".

This is the mainstay of “In a Grove,” a short story published in the early 1920s by Japanese author Ryūnosuke Akutagawa.

Most people know these conflicting viewpoints by a different name, though:Rashomon” In 1950, Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa adapted two of Akutagawa's stories into a single film for the big screen. This film introduced the world to an enduring cultural metaphor that has transformed our understanding of truth, justice, and human memory.

Let's Get to Know the Artwork of In a Grove

In a Grove (藪の中, Yabu no naka), also translated as In a Bamboo Grove, is a Japanese short story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa first published in 1922. It was named one of the "2014 best Asian novels of all time" by The Telegraph in 10. It has been adapted several times in a Grove, most notably by Akira Kurosawa for the award-winning 1950 film Rashōmon.

The story centers on the brutal death of young samurai Kanazawa no Takehiro, whose body was found in a bamboo forest near Kyoto. Previous events are revealed in a series of testimonies, first by passers-by, an assistant police officer and a relative, then the three main protagonists - the samurai, his wife Masago and the bandit Tajōmaru - but remain hidden due to the facts.

Let's go back to our article;

With Rashomon Effect Details

The Rashomon effect describes a situation in which individuals narrate the same event in significantly different but equally plausible terms.
Often used to highlight the unreliability of bystanders, the Rashomon effect often occurs in two specific circumstances.

First, there is no evidence to confirm what actually happened. Second, there is pressure to reach the conclusion, often provided by an authority figure trying to define the definitive truth.

But the Rashomon effect undermines the idea of ​​a singular, objective truth.

In the source material, Akutagawa and Kurosawa use the tools of their field to give equal weight to each character's expression, turning each witness into an unreliable narrator. Without any clue as to who is delivering the most accurate narrative, viewers won't know which character to trust.

Instead, each statement takes on a true attribute, and audiences doubt they are right as they guess who ended the samurai's life. Some viewers may find this annoying. Because the plot twists expectations of how mysteries usually end.

But these two artists refuse to give a clear answer, capturing the messiness and complexity of reality and human memory.
Neuroscientists have found that when we form a memory, our interpretation of visual information is influenced by our previous experiences and biases.

Some of these biases are specific to individuals, while others are more universal. For example, egocentric bias can subconsciously influence people to reshape their memories in a way that sheds a positive light on their actions. Even if we can correctly encode a memory,
recall contains new information that changes the memory.

When we remember that event later on, we often recall the elaborate memory rather than the original experience.

These underlying psychological phenomena mean that the Rashomon effect can occur anywhere. In biology, scientists who start from the same dataset and apply the same analytical methods often publish different results.

Anthropologists regularly deal with the influence of personal histories on an expert's perception. In one famous case, two anthropologists visited the Mexican village of Tepoztlan. The first researcher described life in the town as happy and contented, while the second noted the residents as paranoid and discontented.

Experts aside, the Rashomon effect can also affect the general public, especially when it comes to their complex perception of world events.

For example, after the 2015 security summit between the United States and leaders from Arab states, news coverage of the summit varied enormously.

Some said it went smoothly, others said it was a complete failure. It's tempting to obsess about why we have conflicting perceptions.

But perhaps the most important question that the Rashomon effect poses is this: What is truth? Are there situations where an "objective truth" does not exist? What can different interpretations of the same event tell us about time, place, and people involved? How can we make group decisions if we all evaluate with different knowledge, backgrounds and prejudices?

Like many questions, these do not have a definite answer. But the enduring significance of Akutagawa's story shows that accepting uncertainty for what it is can be of value.

Source: TED-ed

Translation: Emre Incel

Review: Gözde Alpcetin

📩 21/10/2021 11:33

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