The Cognitive and Biological Underpinnings of Waifu

I absolutely love this manga. Satsuki forever has my love.

For once, rather than viewing otaku as a cultural product of Japan, I want to take an alternative viewpoint by analyzing otaku behavior through a different lens. I will present evidence for thinking that each and every one of us can become an otaku, and that the so called cultural origins of otakuism, in particular, the obsession with waifu, play a far weaker role than we think.

It’s Not Just Culture

Cultural differences arise in populations that are arguably just as biologically similar in function as each other. Assuming you’re not a racist asshole, you’ll probably consider someone from another part of the world to be the same as you: a human being. But this runs into a similar problem: if we are to argue for unique aspects of individual cultures, we must then provide sound reason for the genesis of these characteristics. Thus, it’s safer to search for very human and universal biological or cognitive abilities that lead to behavior.

Now, I roughly outlined a possible reason for otaku to behave as they do in an earlier post from back in March. In it, I discussed the ontological commitments that otaku must make in regards to their 2-D wives, but at the time I didn’t mention any reasons for arguing how otaku beliefs come to form. This time I want to specifically discuss the possible mechanisms underlying cognition that have allowed otaku to become who they are, and why Japan had the perfect environment for the blossoming of otaku. However, I think that otaku behavior can be explained at a level more fundamental than that of culture. And the reason for striving to do so lies in the thoughts outlined earlier.

Cognitive Dissonance and the Commitment to Waifu

If you haven’t read this series of posts by Monsieur LaMoe over at Anime Diet, he has quite a lot to say about his personal experiences in Japan and America, and how they’re related to anime. One of the primary points he makes is the difference between soushoku-kei and nikushoku-kei individuals. Refering respectively to “herbivorous” and “carnivorous”, the idea is that soushoku-kei individuals follow the shy, timid, yet nice guy type that we sometimes attribute to individuals in the West.

There are several points worth addressing from his article. According to him, so-called “herbivorous” individuals are peaceful, born without the existence of the gene which codes for violent behavior. Girls, however, on a whole vastly prefer the so-called “carnivorous” men, who physically embody physical fitness and protection. Evolutionarily, this is an important aspect of choosing a mate; finding a fit and suitable mate will allow the best traits to be passed on to children, so that more of the children will survive to mate again.

Because of this preference for carnivorous men, the herbivores find themselves lacking in mates; some individuals choose to remedy this by resorting to the 2-D world for the perfect girl. Thus, we get the waifu phenomenon.

I think there is a critical assumption behind his argument that must be dispelled. It is the idea that herbivorous men are, by definition, incapable of protection. Look throughout anime and take a look at loser male protagonists who find themselves in completely unbelievable harem situations. Most of these characters aren’t completely devoid of good traits (the only one I can think of is Makoto from School Days, but everyone thinks he’s a little bitch). Those obsessed with waifu often fail to appreciate the fact that the girl in fact does like the guy because he can protect her in some way, even if it’s not physical. Perhaps he’s not the typical knight in shining armor, but it doesn’t change the fact that a certain element of the same evolutionarily critical traits are still there even in the romance of anime characters. Instead, perception is focused largely on the understanding that the girl provides, and the male character’s redeeming traits are ignored. This is an example of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive Dissonance is Universal

Waifu enthusiasts who suffered at the hands of real women begin accusing the real world of being cruel and harsh, while convincing themselves that the 2-D world is filled with the perfect women for them. Waifu devotion is an extreme case of cognitive dissonance. Rather than attempting to understand the principles of courtship, and how to make oneself more attractive to the opposite sex, they misattribute their own potential problems to the inability of women to appreciate them.

Cognitive dissonance happens to everyone. Often, when we fail at something, we don’t want to think that the reason for our failure could be our own. We blame others, complain that we didn’t get enough sleep or didn’t study hard enough, and that the others simply don’t understand because that’s they’re ignorant people. We do anything but really accept the fact that we failed; and in the case of romantic relationships, a commitment to waifu is the same exact thing. Real women are ignorant of our awesomeness, so only 2-D ones are worth our attention.

I am happily dating Takane Manaka at the moment.

If cognitive dissonance is really a universal aspect of how we think, then why only now has this waifu phenomenon surfaced? Again from my previous article, I argued that ontological commitment is absolutely necessary in the postmodern world, and that otaku fill this void by supplanting 2-D with the 3-D, that they come to believe that the anime world actually has meaning. Although humans have been doing this for thousands of years (a clear case would be religion and spiritualism), the postmodern world is unique because it is primarily a result of technological growth, information exchange, and wide-ranging networks of communication. Religion must ultimately refer back to the 3-D world, and thus a commitment to religious principles is the same as remaining committed to the societal institutions that the postmodern individual becomes skeptical of. The anime world is a clean split from reality with its characters never changing outside of how they’re meant to in a given series, and therefore are incapable of being a source of cognitive dissonance. In terms of time, Japan provided fertile ground for this shift to 2-D by rebelling against society after the economic bubble burst in the late 80s. As pressure from society got bigger and bigger, more NEETs and hikkikomori were born. And with their access to the 2-D world, a completely new ontology rose in place of their commitment to reality.

The Purity Fixation and Dissonance

My colleague Akira argues in this post that virgin waifu dedication is the result of a cultural obsession with purity, and that taking a wife holds implications of “owning” a woman. While I don’t disagree with this assertion, I think it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Even Western societies for the longest time held the same ideas, but if the West no longer thinks of marriage as the economic acquisition of a good (namely, the wife), then I feel that Japan also no longer thinks this way. If Akira’s claim held true, then we’d see a significantly higher amount of purity obsession in the general Japanese public.

But this isn’t the case. Just look at the amount of porn in Japan, and the average age that people lose their virginity. There’s simply no real cultural reason to be obsessed with purity. Then why is it that otaku are committed to virgin waifu?

The answer lies, once again, in cognitive dissonance. When society tells us that being a virgin is a sign of failure, and sex is a highly sensationalized aspect of life, then those who remain virgins must either accept the idea that they aren’t desirable as mates, or they can convince themselves that virginity is a valuable thing. If they become convinced of the latter, they think: “There’s nothing wrong with being a virgin. Love is about something else, and since real women go and fuck carnivorous men (who are actually inferior to herbivorous men), then those bitches are simply ignorant and blind.” Anime romances might not be torrid, but does that go for movies and television series in Japan as well?

Behavior and the Brain

Dedicating oneself to 2-D waifu is not necessarily a strange thing. Sexual attraction to such characters is not some freak accident, either. If I killed a kitten for every time I’ve touched myself while staring at some 2-D girl, cats would be extinct by now. In this post, 2DT briefly discusses the topic of how we come to be attracted to anime girls, even though they are, essentially, fictitious entities borne of our imagination and brought to life on paper in 2-D. If we look carefully at what the Madarame Thesis says, then there is only a small difference between associating a drawing of breasts to seeing a photograph of breasts to seeing real breasts. Although the first of these three is the least socially accepted source of sexual stimulation, it is actually the same thing as a photograph of breasts. However, the latter is more socially accepted.

The reason why a drawing and a photograph are the same lies in how the visual system works in the brain. We don’t see the world as it is. Often times, we’re easily tricked by visual illusions or miss out on stuff going on in our periphery. Instead of thinking about perception as the act of seeing objects out in 3-D space, perception is actually the processing of information through neural activation patterns in the brain. Thus, 3-D things are processed in the exact same way as 2-D things are. Once we reconstruct the pattern of neurons firing into a meaningful image, we “perceive” that thing out in the world.

My conclusion is thus: Because of how the brain is structured, our previously taken for granted concept of 3-D reality is actually no different from a 2-D one. Our perception and experience of the world is completely dependent on how the brain comes to map certain patterns of neuronal activity with concepts and meaning that we attribute to an external world. When otaku become ontologically committed to the existence of waifu, they aren’t behaving irrationally. They are actually taking a type of neuronal response and re-associating how they perceive of such an object. If all concepts, ideas, and even how we perceive reality lies in the connections between neurons, I don’t think it’s quite strange to see how “deviant” otaku behavior can develop out of individuals that are all born of the same species with quite similar genetic information.

Notes:

I have the utmost respect for the bloggers I have mentioned in my post. Their work fuels many of my ideas and leads me to think about issues from multiple perspectives. There are few right or wrong answers in the world, and I value the discourse between all bloggers the most.

Images were found via google. They do not belong to me.

18 Responses to “The Cognitive and Biological Underpinnings of Waifu”

  1. I think there might be some confirmation with what you’re saying with some prior researcher’s work. I vaguely remember seeing this mentioned elsewhere…

  2. It could go even deeper than convincing themselves of the value of virginity to justify their own circumstance. The purity fixation is just a fraction of the same set of ideals that inspire concepts like “true love” and “soul mates.” When it comes to true love, it is not the purity itself that is ideal. On a more subconscious level, it is the desire to be needed and recognized as an individual. For the female, no other man will do, regardless of similarity in looks or personality – even when this is not the case in real life. The idea that a female virgin has to “save herself” for her true love adds meaning and self-worth to the male character, as he is now needed by her as an individual and not simply as a male. This also goes into the reason why remarriage (or the equivalent) carries certain stigmas in culture, especially in anime. The idea that a person (male or female) would move on with their lives and attempt to find a relationship of similar depth with another partner gives the impression that the original partner was expendable as an individual.

    To simplify it and get to the root of the problem, the idealizing of virginity is actually rooted in the belief that your individual existence is valuable or necessary to others. Some people try to prove this value through work, family or other societal norms. This idea manifests itself as emotional symbiosis between romantic partners for “waifu otaku” who specifically turn away from the 3-D world for romantic or sexual reasons. Looking at it this way, it is only natural that a fixation on purity is more prevalently demonstrated in the otaku community, even if the values that cause it are not confined to a particular culture.

  3. Just blew my mind…

  4. I don’t think you can quite equate the change in Western culture to a change in Japanese culture when it comes to virginity. Developments in both cultures have been quite different, and Japan is still leans toward the ownership of a wife far more than the West. Not that I disagree with your conclusion in that section, which I believe is spot on. In fact, I find it extremely amusing how the herbivorous can be just as misogynist as the carnivorous.

    I’d also like to point out that part of the “she won’t betray me and is perfect” appeal is the lack of knowledge concerning the character. You see a thin slice of that character’s life throughout a story, and because you know nothing else, it’s easy to not only sweep real life consequences under the rug, but also extrapolate traits that need not necessarily be true or consistent. So for all intents and purposes, as long as one can equate perception of 3D with 2D, 3D girls don’t really stand a chance.

    Oh, and some (very) minor nitpicks. I feel you could have split this post into two and added a lot more. Your justifications for the fact that cognitive dissonance is universal and why the waifu phenomenon is a recent development are quite vague, and I would have liked it if you added some more of your reasoning and thoughts. And I think you’re missing an “of” 4 lines above “Cognitive Dissonance is Universal.”

  5. What TIF said.

    It’s interesting that a post-modern rejection of the institutionalized nature of religion among otaku has, in some circles, somehow lead to a similar emphasis on purity and virginity in their respective morality systems. A lot of criticisms of religion have theorized that this obsession with (lack of) sex is a control mechanism. Perhaps, given the hounding that Takenashi Eri received over Kannagi, the same could be said of it in otaku culture. It might not have even begun with that intention, but it’s been found to be a convenient tool for controlling the direction of the culture by some of the more extreme and outspoken segments.

    Just to clarify, the conditions that made Japan a fertile place for otaku culture to flourish was a combination of economic downturn (or, more specifically, the end of a major boom) and the high-pressure generally placed on Japan’s youth, right? The west is obviously in a time of economic downturn now (well, the whole world is), but is it the less intense societal pressures placed on western youth that prevents there from being a major otaku-istic “reject society” culture growing here? Or are we seeing one already? Like WoW players or something like that, for example?

  6. WoW players is a good start, but don’t stop there. 4chan fags. Girls who sit in a circle with each other TEXT MESSAGING each other instead of TALKING to each other. Technology has totally allowed us to disassociate our humanity. I don’t think it’s the same vein, because in the western world case it seems to be that we’re TOO lax on our young people, which allows them to literally slip into these comas of reality.

  7. Using cognitive dissonance to account for both waifu phenomenon and purity fixation is a probable reason, but not the lone or even the correct one. As Elineas mentioned above, I think the justification is rather weak. It may account for certain people, but not others, and is not actually a universal phenomenon.

    In AuroraFlame’s comment, the more recognized universal social need for belonging is something I agree more with, instead of just cognitive dissonance. The reaction to the alienation of individuals in society due to the ongoing harshness of reality (such as eliminating or neglecting people who seem to have no ability, whether evolutionary or in the working world, for example “carnivorous men” and “general manager” respectively) more likely leads to the formulation of the “waifu” phenomenon rather than cognitive dissonance, though both hypotheses do not naturally oppose each other and can work in tandem. However, again, claiming either or both leads to the waifu phenomenon universally is too large a claim that can be substantiated.

    For a blog post of course the “connections between neurons” is easy enough for most laymen, but it could be more worthwhile to go into the details of exactly how perception can distort reality in our cognitive viewing and analysis of the world that we see through our own eyes. For example, quoting from John Travolta in the movie Swordfish, “what the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.” But research in cognitive psychology in recent decades has proven that sometimes what the eyes do not see and what the ears do not hear, the mind still believes exists. An example would be related words (thread, sewing, and pin are presented but the word needle is not, and yet the subject reports hearing it in a recall experiment).

    That kind of research provides a clue as to how we can actually extrapolate our current lives and our past experiences to why people (specifically “otaku” in your context) select 2D women (and their representations) to be our waifu’s instead of 3D – the ideals behind them are what we truly seek. The unfortunate part is of course how the “ideal” never truly exist in real life and that is why people turn to 2D women. Their connections in their minds to related concepts that they hold dear are what may also turn them towards proclaiming certain 2D women as their “waifu”.

    I know I spoke too much but I am currently taking a course in cognitive psychology as well (majoring in psychology), and I find that you provide way too little evidence and are too insistent (the way you write implies such, even though you may not have meant it to be so) on using just cognitive dissonance (which is actually a defense mechanism in psychoanalytic theory) to explain away two phenomenon as well as the basis for their recent occurrence. Elineas has it down well – you could have split it up into two (or more) parts and explained more. I like where it went as a blogger, but as a psychology student I kind of resent (that may be too strong a word but it is the word that first came to mind, so no offence) the fact that the word “cognitive” was used but too little evidence was presented.

  8. You should allow editing of comments. Please change “correct” in my first paragraph to “closest”.

  9. 2D is not as strange as 3D, sometimes. Objectum sexuality is much more awesome than any girl from any dating sim.

  10. This reminds me of Hatsukoi Limited

  11. @omo

    I’m unaware of any actual research being conducted in behavior of otaku beyond the bits I’ve read about regarding hikikomori and the like. If there’s experimental data, I’d love to hear about it.

    As for my last section, much of what I’ve learned about neurophilosophy comes from philosopher Paul M. Churchland who raises important questions about the nature of psychological phenomena in light of neuroscientific evidence that we can account for human behavior by looking at neuronal activity.

    @AuroraFlame

    I don’t believe my argument necessarily excludes the possibility that otaku have a desire for belonging. However, I disagree that the idealization of virginity is rooted in the desire to be needed.

    Let me ask an important question: How does committing oneself to a 2-D waifu lead us to find a sense of belonging? First of all, a relationship != necessity, even if love = necessity (which, in my opinion, it doesn’t, but for the sake of the argument I will assume that the term “true love” includes notions of necessity). Basically, there is nothing that tells us a relationship must occur between people who find each other mutually necessary in their lives. Marriage, if anything, is a long-term form of attachment most likely derived from the evolutionary standpoint of raising young. Species that tend to mate for life do so because their offspring require a significant amount of time to mature and fend for themselves; thus, humans have adapted marriage as a social way of simply confirming a relationship for the long haul.

    Nothing here requires that the two members in the relationship find each other necessary. My point here is that divorce and remarriage isn’t a stigma in many cultures because it makes one partner expendable, but that it breaks up family. For thousands of years, people have accepted that marriage is not necessarily about love (and hence, not about finding one person necessary or not). Even if the husband had 5 wives and neglected four of them, the four unhappy brides wouldn’t be able to divorce because it would break up the economic unit of a family.

    If otaku really did want to find a place where they could belong, would they look to 2-D? Instead, they should be looking for a place in 3-D that could give them that sense of belonging. But the fact that some people do turn to 2-D means that they’ve given up on ever finding a mate. And I think conclusion here is that otaku don’t think anyone could possibly appreciate their existence, so thus 2-D waifu, who can’t judge the way 3-D women do, serve as a substitute. But just because they find a substitute doesn’t mean that they think 2-D waifu are the same as 3-D waifu. Is a relationship with 2-D waifu really romantic or sexual? That remains to be defined.

    @TIF

    When I first studied neurophilosophy, I thought it was dumb. After taking a course called psychology of consciousness, I realized just how interesting the relationship between neuroscience, psychology, and our daily lives can be.

    @Elineas

    You’re right in that direct comparison between West and East isn’t the best route here, but I don’t think it weakens my argument in particular. It’s a generalization, but my conclusion still makes sense.

    I think the whole point that waifu serve as perfect replacements for otaku is BECAUSE these characters have no profile outside of their existence in a series. And thus, there’s no need for waifu enthusiasts to fear that a waifu will betray them (unless the author drops a bomb like with Kannagi). You make a valid point, but it fits within the framework of my analysis as well.

    Finally, I do agree that splitting this post into two would’ve been better. But quite frankly, I’m not here to make the perfect argument. And I don’t claim that cognitive dissonance is the one and only thing underlying a commitment to waifu. I also wrote this post early in the morning. In the future I’ll be more on the look out for mistakes. Part of the reason for my vague reasoning was because I wanted to keep this post from becoming too long, and I wanted it to remain accessible to as many people as possible without getting down into the nitty gritty. Still, if I had polished it even more, I probably could’ve found better ways to word my argument.

    @S-K

    Fantastic point. I think it provides evidence for a claim a desire for purity in a woman is a primary driving point for otaku behavior. I’m sure otaku would be fine with boning any woman — not just virgins. So the obsession with virginity and the commitment to 2-D waifu are somewhat separate problems that often come hand in hand because pretty much most waifu are virgins (although not all are).

    And yes, to clarify I do think Japan has a society that puts a significant amount of stress on the individual. I do argue that otakuism is not unique to Japan, or only unique to societies suffering from the same ailments, and that anyone can become an otaku, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all societies will show individuals developing the same sort of behavior.

    @TIF

    I agree with you, except for the part about “with humanity”. From my point of view, we’re just as human by using technology to talk to each other, become obsessed with 2-D, and etc. because none of this seems to me to be wrong in any real sense. With the development of technology, it seems like a natural development in human behavior should we take a look at the more physical mechanisms driving our actions.

    As for WoW players, I used to be one, and I haven’t had a girlfriend in 4 years (in fact, we broke up cause I played too much WoW). You be the judge.

    @Panther

    First, I never said it was absolutely correct, nor that cognitive dissonance is the only correct claim. First of all, in no way have I claimed that the waifu phenomenon is universal, only that anyone is possible of becoming an otaku. My argument about universality is only that cognitive dissonance is universal and not that the waifu phenomenon is universally brought about by cognitive dissonance. Also, I don’t think Elineas necessarily meant that my arguments aren’t strong enough to lend support to my claims, only that with more sufficient background they would be stronger. Admittedly, this lack of explanation on my part is a shortcoming of this article.

    Second, as I said in my response to AuroraFlame, I don’t think that otaku desiring a sense of belonging is enough to account for resorting to 2-D waifu. Just because you lack a place to belong and a place to be doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily resort to waifu. But it is only when you’re in denial of your own shortcomings and of the facts (such as the fact that a relationship is not necessarily about love), you then make the general assumption that it is society at large that is incapable of accepting you for who you are. In order to stay sane in today’s world, rather than simply giving up and considering yourself no good, you come to the conclusion that no one understands your good points except 2-D girls who have the utmost understanding.

    Third, I think you’re missing my point about the “connections between neurons”. The experimental results you just wrote fully support my argument that the mind and reality are not completely contingent on each other. I feel no need to get any deeper than this largely because it says enough to demonstrate the point I want to make.

    I think you’re mistaking something here. Soushoku-kei individuals (and by subset, otaku) are intially rejected by society before they more fully turn toward 2-D. I would agree with your point about ideals driving otaku behavior if it wasn’t for the fact that otaku aren’t necessarily looking for the perfect waifu. In fact, they accept the flaws of 2-D girls as part of their attractiveness.

    What’s really going on is that herbivores who have otaku hobbies must find some way to deal with how society has rejected them, and thus they turn to 2-D. But when they turn to 2-D, they later become committed to some abstract notion that 2-D is superior to 3-D, when in fact it’s an alternative.

    It’s not just about ideals. That doesn’t explain the whole situation.

    Oh, and a final comment. I have no experimental data to back up my assumptions, only what seems like plausible evidence. Because of this, I have made no claims as to myself being absolutely correct, and that this hypothesis is the only viable one. However, I’m not going to back down from my method of argumentation and write “I think it’s this…” or “I could be wrong, but…” after every sentence simply because readers should be aware that everything that written here is personal conjecture. In addition, I see no real reason for making this article into a prolonged and very specialized discussion of cognitive psychology when that would simply distract readers from my post. If you want to debate about my ideas, I’d be perfectly happy to. Hit me up sometime on twitter @KylaranAeldin.

    @Tamashii

    Yeah, 3-D is pretty scary.

    @kluxorious

    Afraid I don’t quite see the connection.

  12. Your taste in women blows balls. BALLS.

    Everyone knows that Nishino Tsukasa was the best heroine in Ichigo 100%.

    I will say in my defense that Japan has one of the lowest rates of sexual fertility in the world (as you know) AND in a study conducted by Durex, also had the lowest average (and median) sexual activity out of any industrialized country. Anime romances aren’t torrid, and this extends in most part to other forms of media.

    I don’t fundamentally disagree with your thesis, though, I just think we approach cultural problems in very different ways.

    Still though, you need to pick better waifu.

  13. Kylaran,

    Thank you for analyzing my Otaku experience. Very good scientific research. Very interesting reading.

    Just one thing I have to clarify: girls’ ignorance wasn’t my point. I talked about it with evolution and culture.

    Yes, purity (virginity) concept has long gone, at least, my generation in Japan. That concept actually came from the West during the Westernization of Japan. But although purity isn’t widely observed anymore, lack of skinship, a result of that, is still prevalent. The main reason why I started idealizing the West was skinship. And when I was 17, the Jeffersonian document had a huge impact on me for eventually moving to the West.

    Unless in a romantic relationship, we don’t get to have skinship with girls in Japan. But I realized America is actually not skinship-oriented too. Well, it’s too late. I couldn’t tell living in Japan by watching exclusively Hollywood films and MTV videos.

    Kitaouji-san! Great choice! She actually looked like my senpai from my school years. Girls like Kitaouji-san and Yamada-san are my ideal because they are very skinship-oriented. Yet, I don’t declare them to be my weifu. Or, ore-no-yome. I’m not a hardcore Otaku fundamentalist, allegedly the most revered one in Akiba.

    Oxytocin is skinship hormone, which supposedly is only possible with 3-D girls. Yet if 2-D cognition is not entirely different from 3-D’s, then, moe (virtual skinship) should produce oxytocin too. We’re waiting for scientific evidence that the level of oxytocin increases in otaku’s brain while having a moe on moekko. Then, that would prove our point.

    Again, thank you very much for reading and even using it for your research.

  14. Klux,

    Same artist. Ichigo 100% and Hatsukoi Limited were both done by Mizuki Kawashita.

    Kylaran,

    I agree with you, except for the part about “with humanity”.

    I should have said “morality”. I’ve been thinking of doing a piece on how anonymity makes us all feel completely safe and secure enough to do / say what we want, then extending that into how the internet has turned into a huge cesspool of trolls, freak media, and sensationalism. For WoW players, tho, I think them sticking to the game full time is partially just because the damned game is fun (I play it) and partially because it’s an immersing escape from reality and a substitution for social interaction since there IS a social order in the game.

    Granted, the social interaction in the game has become just as bad as the rest of the internet, hence my previous comment on the article I want to write.

  15. Yeah you completely missed my second comment saying “edit ‘correct’ to ‘closest’” which would have changed the impact of that sentence. I wanted to show you that it was not the closest one.

    Your implications were that cognitive dissonance was the reason and not the other way round with regards to the universality of the phenomenon, hence, the misunderstand regarding the cognitive dissonance being the main reason of causing this waifu phenomenon.

    Otaku do not accept the flaws of 2-D waifu’s (if they are even aware of any) most of the time – perhaps I should have been more correct and accurate to put it as “ideal partner”; in short they are looking for the “ideal partner” out of 2-D waifu’s (sometimes many, each representing an aspect of what they want in an ideal partner) whom they lack or are unable to find IRL due to their own inability or society’s doing.

    “Ideal” here, ideally (no pun intended), does not actually mean Utopian. It just means what one finds to be optimal in a partner they want to fit into their life.

    Defining “otaku hobbies” would be good. Do you consider being interested in bikes and cars to be “otaku hobbies”? I mean they fall under the geek category, which could be, in certain views, “otaku hobbies”. There are many other ways of dealing with societal rejection; turning to 2D certainly is just one of several. It hardly stands, as its own, to be such a huge reason for socially rejected otaku to turn to just waifu, which is just one possible route they can take to find themselves worth.

    No one said it was to be a specialized discussion of psychology either, but the way you took it, you seem to be very offended. Had you even seen my second comment you would perhaps have been less so, because I never meant for it to be looking at the “correct” reason when there is none, which you mentioned yourself at the start of the post. Nor would I not fail to understand this is personal conjecture on your part and thus a valuable discussion.

    Unfortunately you seem to only blame the individuals for their behavior instead of looking at societal pressures and society at large and how society may have made “otaku” instead. Then again that is a more general topic of which your post is a subset and thus has no need to be actually discussed at length.

  16. @Akira

    You and I rarely seem to share any agreement over something. :P

    I do think our methods are fundamentally different. Your post provides a great explanation for your purposes; I simply wanted to take a look at it differently, which eventually led me to exclude culture as a possible source of the changes in behavior. Either way, you’re right about the fact that as a collective culture Japan’s attitude towards sex is quite different.

    @Monsieur LaMoe

    Considering my post addresses multiple topics and multiple arguments, I can understand why it would seem like my reading of your articles was a bit off — as I wrote on Twitter, that part about ignorance was my own conjectures.

    As for the skinship point: I think you’re right. I think a lack of skinship is very important in leading otaku to commit to 2-D. Instead of us looking at otaku as looking for the ideal 2-D waifu, we should take a different perspective and look at what causes hardcore otaku fundamentalists to declare that their waifu is the best romantic partner they could have.

    Also, I think the oxytocin comment is right on the mark. Long term attachment is indeed fostered by higher levels of oxytocin in the brain, and I think that scientific evidence looking at whether attachment to inanimate objects causes the brain to release similar levels of the neurotransmitter would be a great way of shedding more light on this behavior.

    @TIF

    I played WoW for like 5 years. I think playing WoW doesn’t necessarily mean we think that real life sucks, unless we suddenly start believing that everytime we eat food, we’re regaining HP/MP…

    On that note, I should increase my spirit stat to increase regen since I have final exams this week.

    @Panther

    First, let me apologize for not keeping your second post in mind when I wrote my reply. I did read your comment about editing it, but I completely forgot it when responding to you. Sorry.
    Also, let me say that I’m not offended in any way at all. I simply get extremely excited and heated when discussing pretty much anything, and I express my opinions with force. It’s part of how I act in real life as well, and I’ve been told that I sometimes frighten people with my competitiveness. Again, my apologies for making you think that way. It means I have to work further on my writing style to convey tone better.

    Now, if I may get to addressing your points:

    1.) I don’t think we should look at otaku behavior from the perspective of propositional attitudes. Propositional attitudes (a phrase coined by philosopher Bertrand Russell) are simply what we consider to be beliefs, desires, wants, hopes, etc. In modern objective psychology, which is a functionalist endeavor for the most part, it’s extremely unwise to describe behavior in terms of the beliefs, desires, wants, and needs of an individual without first linking the behavior to an objective stimulus. I’m sure you’re well aware of this as a fellow psychology student, but measuring the intentions of people is nigh impossible.

    Similarly, it’s extremely difficult to be objective if we posit that ideals are what drive human behavior. First, we must look at the stimulus – response relationship, including the effect society has on the individual. Thus, I came into this entire thought processes attempting to look at a cause for the behavior without attempting to refer to any concept of idealization that so many people simply attribute to otaku (perhaps mistakenly). Hence, while it may be easy for us to talk about this using terms such as “beliefs”, “desires”, “ideals”, etc., it doesn’t mean we should.

    I don’t want to assume that otaku are looking for an “ideal waifu” right off the bat. In my opinion, any dedication to some idealized 2-D waifu is the result of a redeployment of concepts (this is my point about neuronal activation patterns) once faced with societal rejection. According to this line of thinking, what you have interpreted to be a cause of the behavior becomes a side effect of what I speculate to be a result.

    2.) You’re right in that cognitive dissonance don’t explain why otaku resort to 2-D. That’s partially why I wrote a section about the differences between religion and technology, and how these two can induce significantly different modes of behavior from individuals. If possible, I want people to consider my thesis to be: “Otaku fundamenalism (aka, waifu dedication) isn’t some abnormal problem with the desires of the people involved, but a reaction to societal pressures in an age of modern technology.” Of course, I can’t cover all these topics, but in the future I may clarify on my points.

    I do use the term “otaku” a bit loosely in this post; the main focus of my thoughts was the dedicated 2-D fundamentalist that’s so well recognized on 2ch and in Akiba. I think socially rejected otaku find ways of dealing with rejection in many, many different ways, and indeed 2-D is only one of these. As you said, if I had split this post into two, I would be able to fully describe the nuances behind my arguments, and this bit of ambiguity is my fault. I certainly don’t think train/bike/watch/etc. otaku behavior is the same as that of 2-D waifu believers, and thus we have to take a second look at the differences in stimuli driving their behavior.

    3.) As a final point, I certainly do not blame a commitment to 2-D solely on the individual alone. If anything, I completely agree with Monsieur LaMoe’s point about skinship and the lack of it driving otaku into a corner, and that this seemingly “inaccessibility” of real women is largely due to how society conceives of gender relationships and proper societal functioning. I think this is a major catalyst for the behavior, and therefore can be looked at more clearly. However, I think you might be able to see the link here with cognitive dissonance in that the waifu enthusiast then commits himself to the fact that the ones really at fault are women, and not themselves for being potentially inattractive as a mate.

    In conclusion, I hope this clarifies things a bit. I appreciate every bit of criticism and disagreement, since it allows me to refine and rearticulate my ideas better. Please don’t think that I’m taking this as an attack, as I certainly don’t.

  17. Regarding virginity, I’m inclined to side with Akira, but I see your point.
    I do agree with you on cognitive dissonance though. Waifu enthusiasts seem to have supplanted 3-D with 2-D reality. Without getting too deep into philosophy, reality is what we make of it. If a group has the same biological and neurological responses to 2-D world, then that is their reality.

  18. You say:

    “When otaku become ontologically committed to the existence of waifu, they aren’t behaving irrationally. They are actually taking a type of neuronal response and re-associating how they perceive of such an object. If all concepts, ideas, and even how we perceive reality lies in the connections between neurons, I don’t think it’s quite strange to see how “deviant” otaku behavior can develop out of individuals that are all born of the same species with quite similar genetic information.”

    But do have have any solid experimental data to prove that the so-called “neuronal response” of an Otaku’s relationship with a fictional character is the same as that of someone in a real relationship? I would hypothesize that they probably don’t – unless the Otaku in question has gone full Don Quixote and convinced himself his waifu really does exist, I think his neuronal patterns would be quite unlike that of a person in a real relationship. In any case, you have no solid empirical evidence for your claim, and as such you can’t really make any claim that your opinion is really based in the science neurology, which is based on research rather than speculation.

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