Ethics in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Japan and the United States

Project Director

William Deal

Severance Professor of the History of Religion, Department of Religious Studies; Professor of Cognitive Science (secondary), Department of Cognitive Science

International Collaborator

Shoji Nishimura

Global College Program, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

This project connects CWRU students enrolled in “Morality and Mind” (RLGN/COGS 272) with students enrolled in a cross-cultural communication course taught in English by Professor Shoji Nishimura at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. The Waseda course is titled “Communication Style and Cultural Features in High/Low Context Communication Cultures.” Student discussions and interactions focus on enhancing understanding of similarities and differences between American and Japanese culture. Students at both universities share a number of educational experiences, discussing student-written moral narratives and exploring ethical scenarios in a real-time, virtual-world environment using Second Life. In light of these shared experiences, students engage in collaborative course projects that analyze universal and culturally specific components of moral thinking as well as cross-cultural communication.

PROJECT OUTCOMES

Students traveled out of the classroom and into the (virtual) world in order to study similarities and differences between Japanese and American moral values. They applied insights from the disciplines of cognitive science, religion and evolutionary biology to understand traditional moral perspectives. In addition, they came to see how the study of moral philosophy and comparative ethics forces reconsideration of broader cognitive science theories about the nature of human morality. Second Life allowed students to have real-time, media-rich experiences in an immersive, computer-generated environment, where they explored their ethical responses to “virtually real” moral simulations. Compared to the traditional analysis of written case studies, engagement in these simulations offers a better indication of how one might act when confronted with moral decisions in real time.

FACT SHEET

Total funding: $8,300

The grant paid for a visit by Professor Nishimura to CWRU to meet with faculty and with CWRU’s directors of academic technology, who directed the build-out in Second Life. It also supported a visit by Professor Deal to Waseda University and covered the cost of the customized Second Life virtual world. Now that this technology infrastructure has been established, the project can continue at both CWRU and Waseda University.

William Deal

William Deal

Severance Professor of the History of Religion, Department of Religious Studies; Professor of Cognitive Science (secondary), Department of Cognitive Science
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