Understanding the “Rashomon Effect”

An interesting commentary (GM Ronen, DL Streiner. J Pediatr 2016; 179: 17-18) discusses the “Rashomon” effect and how this can relate to studies which show differences between children with health problems and their parents’ perception of how they are doing.

“In this famous Japanese tale, set in the 12th century, a notorious bandit attacked a samurai and his wife in the woods.”  Afterwards, all of the accounts of the incident by the participants were widely discrepant. “When the tale is over, the reader realizes that even though none of the version is a truthful objective account, all must be true at least from the character’s own unique perspective.”

In medical studies with children and their parents, different versions of the truth can be due to many factors:

  • Depression distortion hypothesis –raters with depression tend to score poorer on numerous health variables
  • Disability paradox –“some persons with impairments, against all odds, are satisfied with their life and rate their health similar to typical children”
  • Parents may also be affected by the emotional impact of their child’s health problem even when the problem is well-controlled

My take: This short commentary has a lot to say about understanding why a person with a medical problem may rate their health much better or much worse than an outside observer would expect.

Penobscot Narrows Bridge, Maine

Penobscot Narrows Bridge, Maine


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