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Obokata 'types' not uncommon in business world

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The June 14 issue of the women's magazine Fujin Koron carries a two-way dialog between Buddhist nun/author Jakucho Setouchi and Haruko Obokata, who last January published a book of autobiographical essays titled "Ano Hi" (that day).

In 2014, Obokata, formerly a molecular biologist engaged in research at Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, published a paper concerning the existence of STAP (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) cells. When objections were raised, Science magazine eventually retracted her article. The humiliation that followed was blamed for the suicide of Yoshiki Sasai, co-author with Obokata of the original paper and her supervisor, in August of the same year.

To add insult to injury, last November, Waseda University announced it would revoke Obokata's doctorate, conferred in 2011, due to her failure to correct inaccuracies in her thesis.

In her conversation with Setouchi, Obokata relates what it was like to be treated as a world-class scientific fraud, lambasted by the media. The media bashing, she said, obliged her to undergo treatment for depression.

The point that Nikkan Gendai (June 1) wants to make, however, is that while Obokata's case, and particularly the negative publicity, may have been extreme, similar situations in the corporate world are not uncommon.

"I think Ms Obokata exhibits strong traits of histrionic personality disorder (HPD)," remarked Tamami Katada, a psychiatrist who lectures at Kyoto University. Adults with HPD are characterized by a pattern of excessive attention-seeking emotions, including seductive behavior and an excessive need for approval. Among diagnosed cases, females are said to exceed males by a ratio of 4 to 1

Katada added that while such a condition may be observable from Obokata's behavior, "She's not sick, so I don't think she will change either. She has no self-awareness of the condition. She was born that way, and has adapted to her environment accordingly. Quite a few women exhibit similar tendencies."

One of the most recognizable attributes of a person so afflicted, Katada points out, is the strong sense of victimization, in which a person will always try to find a justification for his or her actions.

"If such a person makes a mistake at work, you'll hear excuses like, 'I just did things exactly like the boss told me' -- in an effort to shift the blame to others. Ms Obokata's book also touches on this, claiming she was just following the instructions of her supervisor. Her ability as a performer is quite polished, so she gives good presentations, and can also do role playing.

"The attitude of such females does not go so far as to be blunt, but for instance if there's a woman she doesn't like, you might see her circulating rumors that 'It's said Ms So-and-so is spreading malicious gossip.' It's done in a way that will easily delude males," Katada explained.

Just as Obokata made appearances in her white lab coat -- which to men bears a resemblance to the feminine "kappogi" (sleeved apron) -- such women, said Katada, behave in a seductive or inviting manner, often making contact with men, patting their knees or touching them lightly. They also tend to lean toward apparel that emphasizes their breasts.

"Should trouble arise, they will feign tears or even go so far as to threaten suicide."

"Even then, such women manage to be popular with men on the job," Katada remarks.

Yomiko Yamazaki, who has specialized in research on male-female relationships, advises that the only safe way to deal with such females is to avoid getting emotionally involved, by maintaining a neutral attitude. "It's possible she might accuse a male colleague of 'ijime' (bullying)," says Yamazaki. "Since their type tends toward conspicuous behavior, if a co-worker adopts a formal manner -- such as only by saying, 'You're looking nice today' -- there's not much chance of getting involved in some sort of trouble."

Ultimately, the most sensible way of dealing with such females, concludes Nikkan Gendai, calls for avoidance whenever possible. It concludes by invoking an old saying that goes "Sawaranu kami ni tatari nashi" (avoid the god and evade his curse).

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

45 Comments
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After paragraph 4, there seems to be no reference to the dialog between Setouchi and Obokata. It's just some Nikkan Gendai stuff.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

which to men bears a resemblance to the feminine “kappogi” (sleeved apron)

It looks like a kappogi to anyone.

what it was like to be treated as a world-class scientific fraud

She IS a fraud. Parts of her thesis are also cut and paste from a number of sources. Faking data and writing dubious papers didn't start at RIKEN. Her boss killed himself, and it's still all about her and how she feels. Hajishirazu.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

Oh just a bs article... Investigating into just how often her strategy is used to hijack future research results would have taken some real effort from the "journalist" that wrote this but would have provided material for a real article, not this whadda-ya-call-it?...

7 ( +12 / -5 )

histrionic personality disorder (HPD)

Another pyscho-babble disorder?

Give us a break, we're all human with varying personalities.

Watch as this HPD crap becomes the latest buzzword for people to use around the office.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

The media bashing, she said, obliged her to undergo treatment for depression.

Have you tried stem cells for that?

4 ( +7 / -3 )

She IS a fraud. Parts of her thesis are also cut and paste from a number of sources. Faking data and writing dubious papers didn't start at RIKEN. Her boss killed himself, and it's still all about her and how she feels. Hajishirazu.

And you know all the details, from both sides of the story? You sound overly upset about her and her story. Interesting.....

1 ( +8 / -7 )

Why is it interesting, Yubaru? Anyone can see online how her thesis was plagiarized, sometimes simply from web pages dealing with her subject. Someone died and she's still painting herself as a victim of everyone at RIKEN; if you don't find that upsetting,I don't know what to say...

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Katada added that while such a condition may be observable from Obokata’s behavior, “She’s not sick, so I don’t think she will change either. She has no self-awareness of the condition. She was born that way, and has adapted to her environment accordingly. Quite a few women exhibit similar tendencies.”

I hope this article is not about trying to make it seems that women are drama queens. Obokata was "born that way"?

Right, she played to her audience, and as long as she toed the line, the oyajis were happy to have her in their club. They liked the fantasies. They are also to blame as well, for they ultimately were charged with over-sight of her work and SHOULD they have been doing their jobs, she would probably never have been published in the first place.

I find it hard to believe that any professional would make a statement that any person is born this way.

One of the most recognizable attributes of a person so afflicted, Katada points out, is the strong sense of victimization, in which a person will always try to find a justification for his or her actions.

This describes just about any Japanese politician. And many Japanese themselves. Right.....

7 ( +14 / -6 )

One of the most recognizable attributes of a person so afflicted, Katada points out, is the strong sense of victimization, in which a person will always try to find a justification for his or her actions.

This seems to be the default reaction of the country.

13 ( +17 / -4 )

"She was born that way, and has adapted to her environment accordingly." Based on what does she make this claim? Nothing! That person teachers at a university? And spouts nonsense like that? Unbelievable! Perhaps Tamami Katada has a personality disorder of some kind - that causes her to make unfounded irresponsible assertions. I find these types of uncritical articles disgusting. The professional quotes are nothing more than irresponsible gossip. I think teachers and professionals who speak to magazines in this way should be professionally sanctioned. They have a right to free speech of course, but so do their employers and the professional organizations to which they belong. This is really ethnically dubious. JT and "Kuchikomi" also fail journalistic standards (which I'm sure they never aimed to meet or perhaps have no idea about). I just find this whole thing unethical. And sexist too! What's dangerous about these kinds of internet pieces is they lower standards, belittle the field of therapy which desperately needs to be improved in Japan, and debase critical thinking abilities.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

histrionic personality disorder (HPD),” remarked Tamami Katada, a psychiatrist who lectures at Kyoto University. Adults with HPD are characterized by a pattern of excessive attention-seeking emotions, including seductive behavior and an excessive need for approval. Among diagnosed cases, females are said to exceed males by a ratio of 4 to 1

Sounds almost exactly like what the wiki-pedia article for this disorder. I wonder? Pot-kettle-black doctor here?

1 ( +5 / -3 )

Sexist claptrap.

4 ( +11 / -7 )

This is a disgusting article. It really lowers discourse on the issue it raises. JT should stick to reporting news items, posting forum questions and photos, and not wade into areas of real journalism - where they just end up debasing the intellect. This is a complicated issue. The treatment is extremely childish here. I'd like to add that the presentation of this piece is confused and confusing, and lacking coherence. It presents a women's magazine, Fujin Koron, and then, in a kind of non sequitur, refers to a new site, Nikkan Gendai. Not only is no context provided, but the presentation is so amateurish that it's not possible to make out any intention, style, or organization. If this were presented by a student, it would receive a failing grade.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

Oh, Japan and its "experts"... SMH

Let's all just take a moment to appreciate the fact that a woman who was vilified for academic fraud, among other things publishing claims without evidence, is now being diagnosed as having a psychological disorder without a shred of evidence. I'm guessing he won't lose his funding.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Even after what is it, 15 years now? it never ceases to amaze me that there are posters in JT who still don't get it: Kuchikomi digests material from the Japanese tabloid newspapers and magazines. Cripes, people these columns aren't supposed to be taken seriously. (I somehow doubt if their Japanese readers take them seriously either --- it's just chewing gum for their brains while dangling from the strap during their long commutes home.)

9 ( +10 / -1 )

From Wikipedia: "Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive attention-seeking emotions, usually beginning in early adulthood, including inappropriately seductive behavior and an excessive need for approval. Histrionic people are lively, dramatic, vivacious, enthusiastic, and flirtatious."

I don't know. She seems to be a very puzzling character. At least I have been fascinated with the story since the beginning. Why would anyone believe they could deceive the scientific community for more than five minutes with plagiarised and invented research? And how would colleagues (mostly men, not all Japanese, it should be added) be so accommodating and helpful? I guess this characterisation - as HPD - seems as good as any so far. I am not saying it is the definitive explanation but I have learned something.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"When objections were raised, Science magazine eventually retracted her article. "

Was it not Nature?

"Just as Obokata made appearances in her white lab coat—which to men bears a resemblance to the feminine “kappogi” (sleeved apron)—"

As Himajin pointed out, it looked like a kappogi to anyone. Because she was in fact wearing a kappogi and not an ordinary white lab coat. That was one of the big PR hoopla points.

"“I think Ms Obokata exhibits strong traits of histrionic personality disorder (HPD),” remarked Tamami Katada, a psychiatrist who lectures at Kyoto University."

Ms Katada is apparently a part-time instructor at Kyoto Univ. In responsible media, such statements are usually accompanied by a disclaimer that the doctor quoted has not in fact diagnosed or treated the person being discussed.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Right, she played to her audience, and as long as she toed the line, the oyajis were happy to have her in their club. They liked the fantasies. They are also to blame as well, for they ultimately were charged with over-sight of her work and SHOULD they have been doing their jobs, she would probably never have been published in the first place.

Whatever the truth of that, she is the primary culprit, as she is the one who is a plagiarist and a fraud. And while you want to make this a problem of "oyajis" as well, it also drew in Charles Vacanti, who is highly respected in his field, and who continued to defend her after she'd been abandoned over here. So you should be asking yourself, what happened to him? I recommend a little online research. You'll notice that Obokata has effectively made him "disappear". She does actually deserve to be singled out and made to take responsibility for her fraud. Something she hasn't yet done, but which the "oyajis" did do.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

One of the most recognizable attributes of a person so afflicted, Katada points out, is the strong sense of victimization, in which a person will always try to find a justification for his or her actions.

This seems to be the default reaction of the country.

I've mentioned it before in other threads, but it's kind of weird that you don't hear the expression "passive-aggressive" much in Japan. Such behaviour is all over the place. The silent treatment, exclusion ("nakama hazure"), victimization (higai mousou), etc. It's as if it's the default mode of confrontation.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

@WordStar Well then I hope Kyoto university stops taking her seriously too. Let her print her views in gossip rags and JT exclusively. It's still sad to me how these amateurs get "teaching" jobs, although, J universities are basically nonsense anyway. Thanks for pointing it out. I never paid attention to the "byline" and I didn't know what Kuchikomi was. If you hadn't pointed it out, I might have spent another 15 years in un-blissful ignorance. I'll skip kuchikomi in the future seeing as it's supposed to be nonsense and it's never very amusing.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I'll skip kuchikomi in the future seeing as it's supposed to be nonsense and it's never very amusing.

Clearly@shallots, tabloid news stories are not for everyone, although I often find them amusing -- especially the sexy material. I don't know about now, but Nikkan Gendai used to boast a larger circulation than the NY Times.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What ever happened with her plagiarised doctoral thesis?... Did she or Waseda University make amends on this?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I recently taught Setouchi San's granddaughter English - she said her conversation with Obokata was one of 'kinship'; take from that what you will.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

“Furanu kami ni tatari nashi” (avoid the god and evade his curse)? As a native Japanese speaker, I can't help correcting the possible mistake of kanji pronounciation. I suppose it should be "Sawaranu kami ni tatari nashi."

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Thank you. It has been corrected.

Yet she plays the victim & is even allowed to release a book (and profit from it)!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I hope this article is not about trying to make it seems that women are drama queens.

That's what it does.

Among diagnosed cases, females are said to exceed males by a ratio of 4 to 1

I have no doubt that more than 95% of frauds in J-corporations are done by male (Tepco, Takada, Mitubishi...). Even for research frauds ate international level, there were mostly cases involving men so far (the Koreans with their cloned goats or sheep, the 'doc' that initiated the anti-vaxxer movement...). That's totally disgusting to take one of the rare cases involving a woman to write an essay on alledge female mental issues.

Yet she plays the victim & is even allowed to release a book (and profit from it)!

A book is not a thesis, she is free to write fictions. You are allowed to 'not buy' it and 'not occur profit'.

Yomiko Yamazaki, who has specialized in research on male-female relationships

What's that 'science' ? She is a Mama in a snack ?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In don't know what scares me more: the fact that this woman got away with what she did for so long, that this so-called "expert" that made up this unrecognized nonsense (Histrionic Personality Disorder??!) lectures at a top university, OR that actually he might be on to something as he has just described at least 40% of the Japanese women I have met in the business world, possibly more.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I hope this article is not about trying to make it seems that women are drama queens. Obokata was "born that way"?

That's precisely the thrust of this article. They may as well just quote some "expert" exclaiming Obokata befuddled the entirety of RIKEN quality control and peer review with her feminine wiles and just be done with it.

Why would anyone believe they could deceive the scientific community for more than five minutes with plagiarised and invented research? And how would colleagues (mostly men, not all Japanese, it should be added) be so accommodating and helpful?

And this is the thrust of why what happened to Obokata was likely a carefully orchestrated "cover our asses" marathon, pushing Obokata out into the cold and leaving what is very clearly an inept management structure at RIKEN untouched.

It's absolutely unfathomable and indefensible how her work -- one that represented a fundamental game changer in the field of stem cell research -- would make it all the way to the pages of Nature without being noticed by anyone at RIKEN.

This absurd article and the equally absurd half-assed diagnosis of HPD by Tamami Katada seem like an effort to absolve RIKEN of any and all responsibility in this. It's offensive on so many levels and calls into question the professional integrity of the entirety of RIKEN, from the lowliest lab assistant at the bottom to the program director at the very top.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Isn't it time we talked about political and economic frauds going on which are way more damaging to Japanese society?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

so-called "expert" that made up this unrecognized nonsense (Histrionic Personality Disorder??!)

Unrecognized? It's in the DMS. It is a recognized disorder in the US.

would make it all the way to the pages of Nature without being noticed by anyone at RIKEN.

You notice it made it into Nature. No one was checking. No one, not even the guy who was working with her at Harvard. On the other hand, people can check to see if a degree has been awarded, but who can go and read the doctoral thesis of everyone they hire, and further, fact check them? The fact-checking and plagiarism check should have been done at the issuing university, where she passed in her paper.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I disagree re her not being sick. What did Obokata think would happen? She had her 15 minutes of wild adulation in Japan but scientists I spoke with about it at the time were not just doubtful about her, they were sure she was a fraud. Obokata played it to the max and she's still playing it. Something is seriously wrong with her.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

What about all those Ivy League hangers on who managed to get their names onto the paper that made here famous? What is their mental affliction?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The DSM-5 has come in for strong criticism by one if its former chairs, Allen Frances, for its false epidemics, secretive processes, industry ties and the role of the drug industry in disease mongering. Other psychological societies also have doubts over the reliability, validity, and value of existing criteria, that personality disorders were not normed on the general population, and that "not otherwise specified" categories covered a "huge" 30% of all personality disorders. There is no test to confirm the diagnosis of HPD. Because the criteria are subjective, some people may be wrongly diagnosed.

Nature was also aggressively targeting the Japanese/ Asian market, even heavily advertising in the Riken journal, as it trawled for submissions, and its office expanded tremendously with contributions from Japan. Its role in the affair has been conveniently 'airbrushed' from the media.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A third-party giving opinions about someone's mental health or existence of a personality disorder, and those reported as "news" is pretty vile. Regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

The real question is, why would a third-party part-time lecturer give her opinions about a person in published format? Anyway you look at it, it's certainly unprofessional and most likely unethical for a medical practitioner (if this is the case).

1 ( +3 / -2 )

No one was checking. No one, not even the guy who was working with her at Harvard. On the other hand, people can check to see if a degree has been awarded, but who can go and read the doctoral thesis of everyone they hire, and further, fact check them?

I'm not sure of the point you're making here, but possessing an advanced degree does not magically free one of the expected and required rigors of peer review. The research she had published in Nature absolutely should have gone through peer review, and it didn't.

The problem I see here has far less to do with Obokata -- who obviously tried to pull one over on a lot of people -- and more to do with RIKEN and these "scientists" who effectively gave her free reign to play fast and loose with not only the facts, but also with the very scientific method upon which medical advances are dependent upon.

People keep saying the Okobata has been "milking" this fraud for her own benefit. On the contrary, it's the media that's been trying to squeeze every last ounce of mileage out of this story with these constant interviews and in-asked for reminders of what happened from Okobata's side of things. I doubt very sincerely The interview between Jakucho Setouchi and Okobata was the result of Okobata seeking out a writer to tell her story. Setouchi went to Okobata for the interview, and not the other way around.

And yet, here we are two years later, and there is still no appreciable media scrutiny or spotlight being shined on the adminstrators at RIKEN who somehow managed to forget the scientific method in its entirety in the months and days leading up to Okobata's published nonsense.

I do not think Okobata is innocent of any wrong doing. But there is some serious misdirection going on here that is shielding lead scientists and adminstrators at RIKEN from well-deserved criticism and public anger. The above article is but a sampling of that misdirection.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

NathalieB, "...that this so-called "expert" that made up this unrecognized nonsense (Histrionic Personality Disorder??!) lectures at a top university, OR that actually he might be on to something...."

Katada is a woman and she certainly did not make up HPD.

Glad to see people commenting here realize the Journal in question is Nature, not Science, although the mods don't seem to feel that is worth correcting even after I pointed it out earlier.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

without obokata the japanese media would have had nothing to report for the better part of 2013 and 2014.

they should be paying her billions of yen for keeping their stupid tv stations and papers afloat considering their only other function seems to be reporting that there was no coverup at fukushima and that "all is well"

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Oh god, don't reward her please. I get your point about the media here, and agree, but Obokata is pathological. Don't worry though, she'll be back. Her colossal and delusional ego will allow for nothing less.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

What about OBOKATA taking off her kappogi and may be more ...an d switcing to vocals ; "ne me quittes pas , ne me quittes pas' so she will get rid of her higai mousu and nobody will accuse her of plagiarasing ????

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They also tend to lean toward apparel that emphasizes their breasts.

I would have liked to have seen some pictorial evidence here.

For scientific purposes.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What an appalling piece of thinly-veiled character assassination this article is

Adults with HPD are characterized by a pattern of excessive attention-seeking emotions, including seductive behavior and an excessive need for approval. Among diagnosed cases, females are said to exceed males by a ratio of 4 to 1

As Yubaru points out up thread this is lifted right off the Wikipedia page, a page that also states:

"Little research has been done to find evidence as to what causes histrionic personality disorder and where it stems from."

Don't be fooled, HPD is not remotely a real thing

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Don't be fooled, HPD is not remotely a real thing

I'm strongly inclined to agree. HPD sounds suspiciously like the 19th century faux-disorder Female Hysteria, except with a new coat of paint called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

A mnemonic allegedly used to make the characteristics of HPD easier to remember spells out "PRAISE ME." This alone seems to suggest something is a bit off with this "diagnosis," considering a phrase as decidedly judgmental as "Praise me" all but tosses objectivity, a critical underpinning of modern psychology, out the window.

Also consider that a while a "person's appearance, behavior, and history, along with a psychological evaluation, are usually sufficient to establish a diagnosis," there is currently no test to confirm such a diagnosis. This point aloe is the antithesis to the scientific underpinnings of medicine, mental or otherwise. The diagnosis can't be tested one way or another.

Finally, it might interest readers to know that more than half of the links associated with the Wikipidia article are broken, or the websites cited display messages that the page looked for doesn't exist, or that the "condition" is listed as possessing criteria that are currently "obsolete" or "archaic" on at least two of the cited sources I reviewed. If references to this "disorder" are hard to find, then perhaps the condition itself is equally amorphous.

Quackery is still quackery, no matter how nicely you dress it up. And using so-called "hysterical personality disorder" to foist even more of the responsibility for the fraudulent research onto Obokata than before -- if that's even possible, is despicable and cowardly.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There are all types of psychological disorders in the work place. The best one can do is to avoid people with serious conditions and pray the employer will isolate the most severe. I generally love people because of unique personalities but some people scare the hell out of me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Are the "4-out-of-5 cases are women" based primarily on clinical work done by male psychiatrists?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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