The Rashomon Effect in the Playground

The Rashomon effect is a term related to the notorious unreliability of eyewitnesses.

The witnesses’ unreliability and subjectivity are a result of situational, social and cultural differences.

The term “Rashomon Effect” was coined after iconic filmmaker Akira Kurosawa first utilized the storytelling technique in the film Rashomon (1950).

In the film three characters seek shelter from a driving rainstorm beneath the ruined Rashomon gate that guards the southern entrance to the imperial capital city of Kyoto.

As they wait for the storm to pass, the priest, the woodcutter and the commoner discuss a recent and scandalous crime – noblewoman  was raped in the forest, her samurai husband killed by either murder or suicide.

The film then gives us four versions of the same series of events, through the eyes of the woodcutter, the thief, the woman, and the spirit of the husband, each retelling markedly different from the others.

Rashomon movie poster

A Rashomon-style narrative allows us to see a single story through different character lenses and get a cubic, multi-dimensional sense of what might have happened according to the way their version of events unfold.

As each relate their side of the story as they see it, what we witness as the audience is that every testimony is plausible and yet none of their accounts can therefore be taken at face value.

Consider that the next time you deal with a playground altercation where conflicts of memory, perception and selfishness abound.

How accurate are the version of events you hear?

How can you trust one explanation over another?

Each student will be motivated differently and will remember the same event in their own way. Each will perhaps recall a version that paints their character in the best light.

Think you can trust your most trusted students? Think again.

Some will lie to make themselves look better. Some will distort the truth because they are afraid or have been threatened.

Can we ever know the objective truth about what happened in ‘that’ fight?

We have to acknowledge the plurality of reality and accept that there will many realities.


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