Research Topics

Relational Mobility: A socio-ecological approach to human social behavior and psychology

We humans are “social animals,” who create societies on our own. Then, how do the characteristics of such “societies” affect how we think, feel, and behave? We attempt to answer this question, by specifically focusing on the effect of a socio-ecological variable we call “relational mobility.”

Relational mobility refers to the degree to which there is an availability of options in a given society or social context regarding interpersonal relationships and social groups. There are abundance of opportunities for people to meet strangers and freedom to select whom to associate with in in societies high in relational mobility (a typical example is the United States). In societies low in relational mobility (a typical example is Japan), on the contrary, people tend to create long-standing and exclusive relationships and group memberships, and there is less chances for them to select and change whom to relate to. Importantly, relational mobility differs not only between countries, but also between regions within a country (such as between metropolitan and rural areas), social spheres (face-to-face communications and the internet), and times (medieval times and now). Our project aims to discover simple principles that people under high versus low relational mobility environments differentially think, feel, and behave, and why.

To date, research by ourselves and by others has shown that relational mobility has profound effects on broad range of psychological and behavioral phenomena, such as the levels of trust in strangers (Yuki, et al., 2007), self-enhancement (Falk, Heine, Yuki, & Takemura, 2009), self-disclosure (Schug, Yuki, & Maddux, 2010), reward and punishment toward cooperators and defectors (Wang & Leung, 2010), proneness to shame (Sznycer et al., 2012), pursuit of uniqueness (Takemura, 2014), determinants of happiness (Sato & Yuki, 2014; Yuki, Sato, Takemura, & Oishi, 2013), and social anxiety (Sato, Yuki, & Norasakkunkit, in press).

Cross-cultural differences in group processes

Past research in cross-cultural psychology characterized people in North American countries (United States and Canada) as “individualistic” and East Asians (such as Chinese and Japanese) as “collectivistic.” Does this mean, however,that North Americans care about their groups to a lesser degree than do East Asians? The answer is No.

Accumulating evidence in cross-cultural psychology has shown that North Americans, while being highly individualistic, as had been believed, are in fact highly collectivistic, even to no lesser degree than are East Asians (e.g., Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002). Then, a new question arises: is the way North Americans think and behave in group contexts the same as that of East Asians? And, our answer is No.

We have proposed a distinction between two models of group behaviors, namely intergroup comparison orientation and intragroup relationship orientation, which characterizes predominant patterns of group cognition, motivation, and behaviors that are typically found among North Americans and East Asians, respectively (Yuki, 2003). Accordingly, North Americans, consistent with social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986; Turner, 1987), tend to regard social groups as homogenous entities, perceive oneself as an exemplar of the ingroup, and are motivated to gain/maintain higher status of one’s ingroup relative to outgroups. On the contrary, East Asians look at groups as a bounded interperonal network among the members, perceive oneself as an participating node within the interpersonal network, and are motivated to maintain intragroup harmony.

Cross-cultural differences in emotion recognition

A test of hypothesis that, when judging other’s emotions, Americans tend to put importance on the shape of the person’s mouth, whereas Japanese tend to emphasize the shape of the eyes (Yuki, Maddux, & Masuda, 2007).

Current Research Projects

  • World Relationships Study

    World Relationships Study

    The 40-country multi-national relational mobility study

    Check out the detailed info here.

    This large scale study has two main aims:

    1. Test cross-national validity of  Yuki et al.’s (2007) relational mobility scale.
    2. Discover how intimacy, similarity and disclosure in relationships compare across societies.

    We are deploying a 5 minute web survey in order to collect data in 40 target countries, translated into 21 languages. We are still happy to hear from possible collaborators, so take a look at the flyer and let us know if you are interested to be a part of making this ambitious project happen. Also, keep on top of the most recent news about the project on the official Facebook page.

  • Collective Rituals Project

    Collective Rituals Project

    Part of a 15-country University of Oxford led project by Harvey Whitehouse, we are conducting fieldwork in Japan to explore the role and origins of ritualized behavior.

    Find out more about this collaborative project on our website here.

  • Intimacy Across Cultures

    Intimacy Across Cultures

    Exploring the link between relational mobility and intimacy

    Image by John Perivolaris

  • Passion Across Cultures

    Passion Across Cultures

    What is passion, and what good is it for?

    Image by Maria Rosaria Sannino.

  • SNS Context Collapse Project

    SNS Context Collapse Project

    How do people react when social spheres overlap online?

    Image by

  • SNS Self Expression Project

    SNS Self Expression Project

    How does the nature of offline society affect online expression?

    See below for some preliminary findings:

    Thomson, R. (2014, August 30). Look at me! (Or don’t): Of society and showing off on Facebook. The Inquisitive Mind Blog. Retrieved from

  • Online Privacy Concern Project

    Online Privacy Concern Project

    Is online privacy concern a reflection of offline societal factors?

  • Over-cooperator Project

    Over-cooperator Project

    Why are prominent over-cooperators disliked?

  • Image by Images Money

  • Romantic Competitiveness across Societies

    Romantic Competitiveness across Societies

    Image by bobi bobi.