Dialogue to the Future: Interviews with a New Generation of Researchers in the AJI

Fourth Interview

Interview with Dr. SUN Yi

future_04_header The Psychology of Interpersonal and Intercultural Differences:
From Her Experiences in Human Resources Department to Academia

—— First, could you tell me how you came to decide on a career as a researcher?

Sun: I entered the academic world because of the joy I had felt during my research for my master’s and doctoral studies, and so, my decision was influenced by my memory of these processes. Although I had the opportunity to work for a company along the way, I switched to pursue a career in research after all, because the research job seemed to offer more creativity and flexibility.

——I see. How do you think about working amongst other female researchers?

Sun: Well, all my ex-supervisors during my undergraduate and postdoc periods were wonderful female researchers. And they motivated me to pursue this path, because I wanted to be a researcher like them.

——You major in personality psychology. What kind of topics do you study? Also, why did you choose this field?

Sun: In my own research, I focus on personality, or individual differences, and study household factors that influence the formation and transformation of personality, and the influence of individual temperament on how people adjust to society. As for why I chose this particular field, I have been interested in individual differences for a long time, and so I chose the field of personality psychology, which mainly studies individual differences, with my simple but basic question of why there are differences between people.

——That is interesting. What was the special reason you became interested in individual differences?

Sun: I don’t know if it’s special or not compared with others, but I once got a job in a company as I said. I was working in human resources after graduation, and that experience had an influence on my interest. Since I was in the human resources department, I had opportunities to meet different types of people at that time, and my work encouraged me to consider workers’ preferences, abilities, and the kind of character they needed in relation to each department. Consequently, I became more and more interested in the natural genetic characteristics of individuals and their learning processes through interactions with the environment, and so I decided to study this field.

——The human resources departments and personal psychology…that’s a very interesting path. Next, could you tell me about your recent research?

Sun: Recently, I am examining the relationships between the formation of a child’s personality and the nurturing environment at home. We are also examining sociocultural factors through a comparative study between Japan, China, and Korea.

——A comparative study covering East Asia sounds very interesting. And how is your research life in Japan? Please tell us about your experiences, including studying at a Japanese university.

Sun: I think the research environment in Japan is very good. It has enabled me to continue my studies at university and do research in a supportive atmosphere. At the beginning of my study abroad in Japan, both my research and my Japanese skills were still very poor, but my supervisors respected my research interests and motivated me to explore the research topic I was most interested in. At the same time, they trained me to be a better researcher and provided other necessary supports including improving my Japanese skills.
Also, in my current work at Ritsumeikan University, I can receive technical and financial support from the institute, and the leader of the research project to which I belong cares about the times I spend for research activities, and thanks to that, I can fully enjoy both my work and my child-rearing life.

——It’s great that you can focus on your own research because you have a robust support system. What do you most enjoy about your research recently?

Sun: I have participated in a research project about international comparative study on the well-being of parents and children, and I have had the opportunity to come into contact with the socio-cultures of various countries and parents and children in these countries, and to learn that what I have taken for granted in the past is different in other cultures. I can actually experience the fact that many things are different according to each society. It has completely changed the way that I view things. I feel it is very shocking in a good sense and quite exciting.
In addition, I have been inspired in many ways by collaborating with other researchers. I am very excited to learn new research methods that can visualize what I have not looked at before and enable me to get new research results. That’s fantastic.

——Part of your research has recently been published in your co-authored book, Parenting and Education in Modern China: Challenges and Future Perspectives from Developmental Psychology (2023, Nakanishiya Shuppan, in Japanese). How do you feel about this new publication?

Sun: When a beautifully printed book arrives in the lab after all the work I've been doing has taken shape, it really feels like the moment my child was born, and I'm so glad I finally got to see my baby. There was a great deal of painstaking effort, but it was very rewarding after all! When people around me who are involved in early childhood education and early childhood development research show an interest, I am happy that we can share our interests and I hope this book really helps these people. I believe that humankind has really come this far by collective learning and shared wisdom, and I hope to produce better results in the future as well. Our research project will actively disseminate our findings to the public.

——I can see that finally publishing your results has been a very important step. What kind of plans for the future do you have in mind now?

Sun: I and my research team have mainly examined the individual characteristics of the subjects through questionnaire surveys so far. However, in the future, we hope to use behavioral observation in the laboratory and brain measurement methods to elucidate the biological basis of temperament characteristics and their interactions with the environment. In addition, although we have studied infant children and adolescent college students, we will now aim to examine the formation and transformation of personality in childhood.

——I am very excited to see what the research results will be. I believe you will be able to obtain more wonderful results in the future. Thank you very much for sharing your ideas and experiences with us today.

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