2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Disappearing Anger: The Psychological Experiment on Anger among Formosan Aborigines Conducted by Fujisawa Shigeru in Late Colonial Taiwan

Yu-chuan Wu

Department of Psychiatry, Cardinal Tien Hospital

From 1935 to 1938, Fujisawa Shigeru, then an assistant at the Institute of Psychology, Imperial University of Taihoku, Formosa, conducted an experiment on “anger” in various Taiwan aborigine tribes. Fujisawa hoped the experiment, originally designed by T. Dembo, would prove a theory about the emotional and behavioral characteristics of aborigines, namely that aborigines were childish, emotional, and prone to outburst of anger. However, he failed to prove this hypothesis.

This article offers a critical review of the experiment. The hypothesis portraying Taiwan aborigines as childish and emotional obviously reflected the prevailing racial prejudices of the day. Of all the variety of emotions, Fujisawa’s choice to research anger among aboriginals may also have reflected the fears of colonizers about Taiwan aborigines after the bloody Musha rebellion of 1930. By demonstrating their inclination to outbursts of anger, the aborigines would be condemned as at least partially responsible for the rebellion. However, in the experiement aborigines did not lose their tempers when faced with the frustrating predicament designed to make them angry. Taiwan aborigines seemed even less prone to anger than those highly civilized scholars who became furious in Dembo’s original experiment. I suggest that the absence of anger was a consequence of colonial suppression—we need to remember the colonial domination that was indispensable to the proceeding of the experiment, as seen in the presence of the colonial experimenter as both an observer and a symbol of colonial power. As to Fujisawa’s interpretation of his findings, which correlated the difference between the actions of various tribes in the experiment with their differential motivation and efforts at civilization and ‘Japanization’, as was commonly the case, he neglected the effects of colonization upon the subject in the colonial “human sciences.”

Yet in spite of the absence of tantrums, some indications of anger can be discerned in Fujisawa’s original records. Anger thus was not absent but was suppressed, transformed or disguised. This demonstrates the potential ethnic identity of the colonized as opposed to the colonizers, and so we cannot sustain the view that assimilationist policies put in place after the Musha rebellion were successful.


Keywords: Fujisawa Shigeru, R. Iinuma, T. Dembo, dynamics of anger, flower-experiment, Musha rebellion, Formosan aborigines