Rashomon effect: what it is and how it affects our perspective

There are many ways to explain the same reality, because everyone can perceive the world in a radically different way than the rest of their peers, giving rise to misunderstandings and multiple visions of the same fact.

And that’s what he’s referring to the curious Rashomon effect, a phenomenon whose origin is in a film by one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century, Which, through his particular film, was a before and after in the history of cinema.

We’ll take a more in-depth look at this phenomenon, what implications it has beyond the fictional narrative, and how important it has shown exercising in areas such as justice and psychology.

    What is the Rashomon effect?

    The Rashomon effect is a phenomenon that is produced due to the subjectivity and personal perception of everyone when explaining the same real event. That is, it is the fact that several people, those who have experienced the same fact, try to describe it, however mix their perception of what has been experienced, so that everyone explains it in their own way, Forget or exaggerate some aspects or others. Despite the number of versions that can arise, these prove to be plausible, making it difficult to choose just one.

    This effect is very recurrent in the narrative, that is to say that either in a special episode of a series, a part of a film or a chapter of a book, it is very common to find several characters who expose their reality., From his own point of view, which is, as it should be understood, totally subjective. The use of this type of resource, in which the narrator in the first person or the omniscient disappears to put forward characters who can be rather testimonies, allows to break with the monotony of many fictions.

    With the case of the Rashomon effect, it is understood that reality in a given story is something that depends entirely on its own subjectivity, And that factors such as limitation of information received, age, gender, memory, influence of others or someone’s beliefs are aspects that influence how a story is relived. The stories the characters tell can be true and, in turn, seemingly incompatible, unless one of them is lying.

    Origin of this effect

    The name of this effect is due to the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa who in 1950 presented the film Rashōmon, a film based on two stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. The plot of the film is that of the murder of a samurai and the rape of his wife in 12th century Japan, and how various characters try to find out, through his testimony, who was the real culprit of such a heinous act. , before deciding on the execution of who is supposed to be the material author of the events.

    Throughout the film, each character is remembered through flashbacks, presenting the stories in other stories and seeing each of them as something potentially true, complicating the plot. In Rashōmon is shown how all of these stories, from a certain point of view, are something that cannot be taken for granted, That the reality they describe depends on the context, the context and the conditioning of each subject.

      Kurosawa’s influence on general culture

      With this way of describing the plot of his film, Kurosawa made his film a major impact across the world. Moreover, this influence was not only in the world of the arts, but also in the field of law, psychology and philosophy.

      with Rashōmon there were many series, movies and books that tried to emulate this same style, in which there is no specific narrator. All of these stories, combined, allow us to have a deep understanding of the real situation.

      To name just a few series and movies, here is a list of those works of fiction in which the Rashomon effect has been used at some point: How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014), Lost (2004-2010), The Affair (2014), Captives of Evil (Vincente Minnelli, 1952), The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995), Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999), Gosford Park (Robert Altman, 2001), Tape (Richard Linklater, 2001) , Hero (Zhang Yimou, 2002) and Lost (David Fincher, 2014).

      But, as we have seen, this effect is not just a matter of directors and writers. In the legal realm, the Rashomon effect is mentioned when there is a case in which witnesses point to witnesses who are either seemingly contradictory with each other or too much has happened to only take for granted. just one of their stories.

      With regard to the social sciences, in particular social psychology, the term “Rashomon effect” is used to refer to situations in which the importance of a particular event, value or goal, in abstract terms , is not in dispute. various views or assessments of the why, how, who and why.

      The effect and the media

      While the media try to be platforms aimed at portraying reality as objectively as possible, the truth is that they often fail in this attempt. You could say that their way of seeing things and (why not say it more directly?) Their ideology mingles with the way they give a fact. that’s why the idea that the media deceive us is very common.

      Each medium approaches the same information differently, omitting some data and underlining others. This would fall under the category of misinformation, but it serves as a clear example of how the Rashomon effect can be whimsical, which can be perfectly given without our realizing it.

      Given that there is so much media out there and everyone explains what suits them, it is understandable that there are a lot of stories that are broadcast on our TV screens, or reaching us on the Internet and in the newspapers. , and that, all together, would allow us to know as deeply as possible what really happened. Although, of course, that would involve having to review the same information but in different media.

      Bibliographical references:

      • “The Rashomon effect: when ethnographers do not agree”, by Karl G. Heider (American anthropologist, March 1988, vol. 90 n ° 1, pp. 73-81).
      • Davenport, C. (2010). “Rashomon effect, observation and data generation”. Media bias, perspective and state repression: the Black Panther party. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pages 52 to 73, in particular. 55
      • Anderson, Robert (2016). “The Rashomon Effect and Communication”. Canadian Journal of Communication. Vancouver Canada (41 (2)): 250-265. ISSN 0705-3657
      • Davis, Blair; Anderson, Robert; and Walls, Jan, eds. (2015). Rashomon Effects: Kurosawa, Rashomon and their legacies. Routledge’s Progress in Film Studies. Abingdon, ENG: Routledge. ISBN 1138827096. Accessed September 28, 2016. See also citation of individual chapters.

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