Takeo Doi, scholar of Japanese psyche

By Yuri Kageyama
Associated Press / July 7, 2009
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TOKYO - Takeo Doi, a scholar who wrote that the Japanese psyche thrived on a love-hungry dependence on authority figures, died Sunday, his family said yesterday. He was 89.

Mr. Doi, who died of illnesses related to old age, wrote the 1971 book “The Anatomy of Dependence,’’ which introduced the idea of “amae,’’ a childlike desire for indulgence, as key to understanding the Japanese mind.

Mr. Doi’s work was a hit in Japan and has been widely studied abroad in translation. Ezra Vogel, social sciences professor emeritus at Harvard University, has praised Mr. Doi’s book as “the first book by a Japanese trained in psychiatry to have an impact on Western psychiatric thinking.’’

Mr. Doi argued that amae, while also observed by other nationalities, was more pronounced and elaborate among Japanese and was key in defining social relationships, including at the office and in marriages.

His work stemmed from what he called his “culture shock’’ when he went to study in the United States in the 1950s and saw the difference between how Americans and Japanese act, including his patients. He was struck by how there was no precise way to translate amae into English, although the behavior was common in puppies and human babies.

“I set about using my idea that amae might be vitally important in understanding the Japanese mentality,’’ Mr. Doi wrote in his book. “I soon became convinced that it provided a clue to all kinds of things that had hitherto been obscure.’’

Mr. Doi used amae as a starting point for explaining other common Japanese traits, such as self-effacement and the widespread perception of a duality between appearances and a hidden internal reality.

Mr. Doi taught at his alma mater, the University of Tokyo, from 1971 to 1980.