While playing Boggle with my wife, I had an obvious revelation about Rashomon. We each spent our three minutes per round looking at our 4-by-4 array of letters. While we saw a few common words, it was astonishing how many I saw that she didn’t see, and vice versa.

ESPECIALLY vice versa, for she ALWAYS did better than I, even though we’re looking at the exact same array. OK, we’re 90 degrees from each other, but still…

Rashomon is “a 1950 Japanese period film directed by Akira Kurosawa… The film is known for a plot device that involves” four “characters providing subjective, alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same incident,” i.e., a murder.

But you do not need to have seen the film – I’ve only watched parts of it, and none of the 1964 remake, The Outrage – to understand the Rashomon effect, which “addresses… the existence of disagreements regarding the evidence of events, and the subjects of subjectivity versus objectivity in human perception, memory, and reporting.”

So, if a jury seated for the Bill Cosby rape case in 2017 fail to either convict OR acquit the actor, it’s clear that the folks are seeing very different interpretations of the very same facts.

Facebook has a Rashomon effect: “various user groups interpret the experience of using it very differently, according to a new study.”

On the way home one Sunday this summer, I saw a young woman (14? 18?) being followed by these three young adults. Were they her caretakers or was she being harassed by them – or both – as she barked out obscenities towards them? I watched this standoff, then ran into a friend, asked for her cellphone and called the police, hoping they could sort it out.

Yet others on the street seemed unconcerned. “She’s just a kid,” one offered. Yeah, but it doesn’t preclude a problem. (Arthur had a somewhat similar situation.)

I try to think of Rashomon anytime I’m in a political discussion, desperately trying to remember that they can see the behavior of an elected official and come to a very different conclusion. I can’t say I always understand at all, but that this different interpretation is occurring is indisputable, rather like blindfolded people trying to describe an elephant.

For ABC Wednesday

10 Responses to “R is for the Rashomon effect”

  • Rajesh says:

    Interesting. I did not knew facebook had such a group.

  • Chris E says:

    Tucking this term in my back pocket for later use.

  • leslie says:

    I know what you mean, but didn’t know the term. I quite often see things differently from others – like my so-called friend who thinks #45 is the cat’s meow! We do not discuss politics anymore.

  • I did not know that is was called “Rashomon” but I do agree with the rest of your writing…. I use it myself to deal in an easier way with troubles etc and I often ask people to rethink again about the subject we’re talking about… it is fun… how the mind can come up with totally different things if one takes a couple of minutes to think over alternative possibillities

    Have a splendid, ♥-warming ABC-WEDNES-day / – week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc-w-team)

  • Another wonderfully informative post ~ great one for R ~

    A ShutterBug Explores
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  • I wonder if a criminal lawyer has to summon up Rashomon thinking frequently.

  • Hazel says:

    So much rashomon going on in my home country nowdays. It’s mind-boggling.

  • Chris E says:

    Did get the opportunity to use the term Rashomon Effect with a colleague from history today. Sadly only got the term itself half right, although remembered it’s origins correctly. 🙂

    Your memory is striking. Next “Ask Anything” I’m asking about that: do you remember the first time usually, or do you have to return to it repeatedly like most people, just you’re more diligent about than most?

  • Chris E says:

    *its, not it’s. I know the difference, but autocorrect does not :-p

  • Joy says:

    I like unreliable narrators as a plot device.

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