Introducing Rolefulness with Prof. Daiki Kato & Nicholas Kemp

Episode Transcription 

Nick: This is episode one of the Rolefulness Podcast. I am co-host Nicholas Kemp and joining me is co-host Professor Daiki Kato. Professor Daiki Kato holds a Bachelor of Education, a Master of Arts , and a PhD in Psychology all from Nagoya University. 

Currently, you are a professor of the College of Human Sciences at Kinjo Gakuin University in Nagoya, Japan. And your area of study focuses on clinical psychology and art therapy.

I am the founder of Ikigai Tribe, and author of Ikigai-Kan. I actually might say hello and welcome you now, Daiki. So welcome to the first episode.

Daiki: Thank you for inviting me today. I'm very happy to talk with you about our new concept, Rolefulness.

Nick: So on that theme last year, I reached out to you because you wrote a very interesting paper that you co-authored with Mikie Suzuki titled, 'Rolefulness and interpersonal relationships.'

And we recorded a podcast on my other podcast show, the Ikigai Podcast. I just thought this concept is so thought-provoking, fascinating. It's vital that we have a sense of role satisfaction in our day-to-day living. 

And because I was so inspired by this concept, I thought, there's a book in this concept, and I reached out to you, and suggested that we write a book together. And you are very kind and receptive. So we have started our journey of writing a book to share insights about rolefulness. And we'll share some of those insights on this podcast. 

We actually recently met in Brisbane to discuss what we wanted to write about in the book. And we had a really good time, I got to meet your family. And yeah, that will be a very happy memory for me. So it was wonderful to meet you. 

Daiki: Yes, me too. That was a very radical time and the lunch and the coffee were very good in Brisbane.

Developing a new role theory

Nick: Brisbane is a nice place. That was my first real trip. It was nice and warm, too, in a winter. So let's dive in. So the theme of this podcast is rolefulness. But before we dive into rolefulness, I think it would be a good place to start by defining role.

So this is an area I'm researching. And I purchased a book called Role Theory. And in that book, Bruce Biddle writes: 'We define a role to be those behaviours characteristic of one or more persons in a context. The definition hangs on four terms - behaviour, person, context, and characteristics. 

Biddle argues that roles are behavioural, performed by persons, normally limited in some way by contextual specification and consists of behaviours that are characteristic of a set of persons and context.' 

So what do you make of that definition, Daiki?

Daiki: I think this definition is very meaningful. As this definition says, the roles are behavioural and based on social context. However, the past psychological studies focused on very specific roles such as roles of profession and gender roles.

Therefore, I want to develop a new role theory that is not limited in the specific area and contexts. I'm interested in more familiar role theory for everyone.

What is rolefulness


Rolefulness is the continuous sense of role satisfaction we have or we experience in our daily lives. Rolefulness does not depend on specific roles such as being parents and professionals; rather, it represents a general sense of role satisfaction.” - Daiki Kato

Nick: So am I, that's why I reached out to you. So let's then move on to your theory and start by looking at what rolefulness means. So what is rolefulness?

Daiki: It's a very important question and let's start our first podcast with the theme of what is rolefulness. Rolefulness is the continuous sense of role satisfaction we have or we experience in our daily lives. That is our definition of rolefulness.

Rolefulness does not depend on specific roles such as being parents and professionals; rather, it represents a general sense of role satisfaction. That is a very simple explanation of rolefulness.

Nick: I really like this idea that it's not cemented in a specific role that we can feel rolefulness in all of our roles. So would you like to offer some examples? When do we feel a general sense of role satisfaction?

Daiki: So I introduced some of our study. Our study showed that rolefulness is very familiar with us, and it is not special. Everyone feels rolefulness in our daily lives. The relationship with familiar people includes many chances to feel rolefulness.

For example, I'm a father of two sons, and I play with them on weekends. This weekend, I also played with them and it was a very happy time for me. So at that time, my sons feel very happy, and I feel very happy, too, and I'm satisfied when I see their smiles. I felt great rolefulness at the time, it is one of the examples: my role as a father and rolefulness.

Nick: Nice, and I can relate to that. I met your two sons, and they were very polite, friendly. Obviously, very good parenting from you and your wife. And yeah, when I think of my son, he's a lot older, so he's almost 20. And like you, when he was younger, I had a great sense of rolefulness just by playing with him and being fun and going outside, and throwing a ball, or tickling him or just having a good time. 

But now that has changed. And so he's obviously older. So I guess I feel a sense of rolefulness and playful banter. We talk about sports, we actually talk a lot about psychology or philosophy. Sometimes he teases me about ikigai and, you know, writing a book and all these things. So there is still this playful element, but I guess it's a more mature relationship.

And sometimes -- not really offer advice -- but I do try to guide him by asking lots of questions related to his study, he studies music production. And so yeah, I feel a strong sense of rolefulness as a father.

Daiki: Yeah, we're both fathers and our role as a father is changing as our children are growing up. That is a very good point for rolefulness theory.

Two subfactors of rolefulness

Social rolefulness is role satisfaction based on social experiences, such as interpersonal relationships. And in contrast, internal rolefulness is role satisfaction that is formed by internalising social rolefulness, and it includes identity and confidence.” - Daiki Kato

Nick: It's interesting, because when you have a child, you sort of automatically become a parent, or, in our case, a father. But yeah, you're developing all these new, I guess, skills, or improving communication or perspective.

And I guess, once you develop all those new skills or understand new perspectives, you develop rolefulness. So it's not always easy being a father, but it's certainly satisfying. 

And what you found with rolefulness, there are two sub factors. So what are those sub factors?

Daiki: In our theory, rolefulness includes two sub factors. So, as you introduced, one is social rolefulness and the other is internal rolefulness.

I'll explain about social rolefulness, first. Social rolefulness is role satisfaction based on social experiences, such as interpersonal relationships.

And in contrast, internal rolefulness is role satisfaction that is formed by internalising social rolefulness, and it includes identity and confidence.

Social rolefulness

social rolefulness

Nick: I see. So we've got social rolefulness and internal rolefulness. Let's touch on social rolefulness a bit more.

Daiki: Social rolefulness is theoretically correlated with our social experiences; hence, interpersonal communication is especially important. We need to develop social and communication skills to establish and maintain good relationships with others.

Therefore, we hypothesise that people with satisfactory social and communication skills can achieve adequate social rolefulness.

Nick: Makes sense to me. And I would argue that communication is obviously so crucial with social rolefulness. Recently, I've learned how important communication is: I've joined a local community group where we're practising public speaking. 

And I've actually found the communication just within the group, when we're not really speaking, just organising the meeting, encouraging others, accepting others, offering help, asking for help -- this in-person communication, obviously really matters for our social life.

And I guess once we have that social rolefulness, it leads to your discovery of internal rolefulness. So would you like to expand on internal rolefulness as well?

Internal rolefulness

internal rolefulness

Daiki: We form internal rolefulness based on social rolefulness, and it includes confidence and identity, as I mentioned before. Self-esteem is defined as one's belief and confidence in their own ability and value and is developed as a result of positive relationships with others.

For instance, the experience of being accepted or valued by others facilitates our self esteem. Being accepted by others is crucial to our well-being. 

According to Erikson's development theory, Erik Erikson is a very famous developmental psychologist. And so according to his theory, the establishment of one's identity is a main theme in adolescence.

In this period, interpersonal relationships become more complex than those in earlier developmental stages and cause role confusion. I think that increasing internal rolefulness deeply relates with establishing identity in the adolescence period.

Nick: Inspired by your work, I've been doing some reading on role theory, and coming across all these terms like role confusion, role stress, and this idea of both adolescence and I guess, post retirements, there is this trouble of defining role or feeling that you have a role. 

Obviously, with adolescence, there's all these challenges of growth, becoming aware of your identity, trying to fit into all these different social groups, society, you know, fear of the future, confidence issues, peer pressure, so many things to deal with when you're a teenager or becoming a teenager. So probably everyone can relate to their teenage years being stressful. 

And then it sounds like once you finish your professional roles, and you have all this time freedom, a lot of people struggle with not having that professional role. I know in Japan it's a big issue specifically with men who retire, they lose their most, I guess, significant role in some respect. And there is that term, the roleless role for people who retire. 

So we're going to explore all these things on this podcast, but let's stay focused. So when we were talking about social and internal rolefulness, this thought came to mind: how do we internalise social rolefulness?

Internalising social rolefulness

Daiki: So that's a good question. I think it is an important research question, too. I think that it is important to be aware of our social role for the first step. It is important to notice our social role. It is a very important first step to grow our internal rolefulness.

Nick: That's an interesting idea. We have all these professional roles, family roles, but we do have social roles. So I guess being more aware that okay, I might have several social roles. Or, being a professor or a mentor or a coach is a professional role, but it's also, I guess, a social role because you're dealing with people, you're having conversations. 

So that's one idea. Another idea or another question is, when we're internalising, obviously, our social rolefulness, it is a thought process and how we perceive ourselves. So would you like to touch on that a bit more?

Focusing on our thoughts and perceptions

We'll spend a lot of time planning our goals, careers, even a holiday. Even when we want to buy something, we set a budget, and plan for that. Yet, we don't seem to spend a lot of time identifying our roles, what our roles mean to us, how we would like to define or even redefine our roles, whether or not we want to embrace new roles. We don't seem to give a lot of thought to the type of person we want to be in our roles.” - Nicholas Kemp

Daiki: Yes, after being aware of our social roles, focusing on our thoughts and perception is both important, I think.

In addition, the internal rolefulness scale we develop to measure the level of rolefulness, the internal rolefulness scale we developed includes items for example, 'I realise my individuality by my role.'

Therefore, the developmental process of identity and rolefulness affect each other, and significant correlations are expected among rolefulness, self-esteem, and identity. 

Based on the hypothesis, we investigated the correlation among rolefulness, social and communication skills, self-esteem and identity. The results of the study showed that they are deeply related to each other.

So developing the internal rolefulness concerns with so many factors. As you said, our thoughts, our perception, our satisfaction, or our communication skills, or our identity. 

So that's very important and a very interesting point to our study. So I want to study more about the relationships among rolefulness and other many psychological factors.

Nick: Yeah, it's fascinating. We've touched on this idea that we'll spend, for example, a lot of time planning our goals, our careers, even a holiday. Even when we want to buy something, we set a budget, plan for that.

Yet, we don't seem to spend a lot of time identifying our roles, what our roles mean to us, how we would like to perhaps, define or even redefine our roles, whether or not we want to embrace new roles. 

And we seem to neglect any serious thought process on our roles, which really took me by surprise, we kind of just accept that, you know, you become a person, as you go through life, you're a student, you become a worker, you might become a parent, but we don't seem to give a lot of thought to the type of person we want to be in our roles. And then yeah, we wouldn't, let's say, journal on our roles, or as much as we might journal on the things we want. 

Collaborating on rolefulness

So, this is fascinating. And then as you mentioned, all these things are very relevant to rolefulness or role such as self-esteem, sense of identity, confidence, I guess, finding our place in the world.

So we are going to explore all these themes on this podcast. But what I wanted to say to you is that just this idea of writing the book, and doing the podcast with you, is already giving me a sense of role or rolefulness. 

So yeah, there is a sense of rolefulness in researching, sharing knowledge, co-authoring a book with you, and working together. And it's something that started from us meeting each other online, you were very kind to come on to my other podcast. And that was over a year ago.

And then in the back of my mind, there was this idea of rolefulness, it's an amazing word, it's a very important subject. There has to be a book in this, and then I reached out to you again. 

And, yes, serendipitously, we seem to have started this new project, but it's very full of rolefulness for me, so it's very roleful. What about you, Daiki?

Daiki: Yeah, I was very happy when I received your invitation to do together a new project about rolefulness and doing podcasting and writing a book. So yeah. I'm very happy, too.

So I'm studying about rolefulness and doing research and writing research papers. So that is a very specific process. I wanted to broadcast the concept of the rolefulness more wider. So the research paper is for researchers or some professionals, like, practitioners or psychotherapists. 

As I said before, rolefulness is not a special thing. All of us feel rolefulness in our daily lives. So I want to show it to many people all over the world. So I have no chance to talk about it more widely.

But Nick, you gave me a chance to get to do that. And so I'm really excited to start this program, and I'd like to talk with you about more topics on rolefulness on this podcast.

Upcoming podcast episodes on rolefulness

Nick: Yeah, we actually have quite a few episodes lined up. So next episode we'll be talking about, 'Are we becoming a roleless society?' Then we'll look at your rolefulness scale on episode three. And we'll look at how we can increase rolefulness on episode four. And we'll be diving further into rolefulness and other Japanese psychological concepts. 

So yeah, we've got a lot to talk about. But I'm very grateful that you're sharing this concept with me, and that we can present it to a wider audience. So I think we'll end here.

It's been a great introduction to our project, to the concept of rolefulness. So Daiki, thank you so much for sharing this journey with me and introducing me to rolefulness.

Daiki: Thank you so much, too.

Nick: All right. We'll be speaking to everyone on episode two. Thank you for joining us.

Daiki: Yeah, thank you very much for today.