47 – The Impact of Rolefulness on Ikigai with Professor Daiki Kato

Do you recognize the significance of your role?

Throughout our lives, we have various roles, and they may change with each life stage. Yet, every role holds importance, shaping our identity in unique ways.

In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick speaks with Professor Daiki Kato to explore the importance of roles in perceiving ikigai in our lives. 

Emotional connection is essential to ikigai

"Both yarigai and ikigai are very important words to understand rolefulness, connection is very important. 

I think emotional connection with others -- intimacy and attachment -- is very important to feel ikigai. The emotions such as pleasure and satisfaction, which accompany our role are very important for our mental health." - Daiki Kato

Podcast Highlights

Daiki Kato

Daiki Kato

Professor Daiki Kato is a professor at the College of Human Science at Kinjo Gakuin University, Nagoya, Japan; his areas of study include clinical psychology and art therapy. He received a Bachelor in Education in 2003, a Master of Arts in 2005, and a Ph.D. in psychology in 2008 – all from Nagoya University in Japan.


Website - Daiki KATO Laboratory

Rolefulness Website - Rolefulness.com 

Defining rolefulness

Daiki co-wrote the paper titled 'Rolefulness and Interpersonal Relationships.' Rolefulness is a psychological concept developed by Daiki and his colleague, Dr. Mikie Suzuki. It is the continuous sense of role satisfaction that people have in their lives, and includes two subfactors: social and internal.

  • Social rolefulness is role satisfaction based on social experiences, such as interpersonal relationships – having a role that is of benefit to others.
  • Internal rolefulness is role satisfaction that is formed by internalising social rolefulness – people gain confidence because of their role.

Coining the term rolefulness

Daiki has been studying clinical psychology, focusing on the psychological effects of art therapy, particularly with LEGO® blocks as a material for individual and group therapy. During his research, participants created works using LEGO® blocks, and therapists interpreted each creation.

While conducting group therapy, Daiki found out that many roles are formed when people work closely together. He noticed that collaborative work improves each individual’s social skills and gives them role satisfaction – thus, the concept of rolefulness was created to highlight the importance of roles to mental health and human relationships.

Rolefulness Ikigai Tribe

Workshop on increasing social rolefulness

As mentioned, Daiki conducted a workshop amongst young adults to develop social rolefulness. The workshop focused on collaborative work, employing LEGO® blocks as the chosen material. Groups of three to four participants joined forces to express their creative ideas using LEGO® blocks. Throughout the process, participants established both verbal and nonverbal connections. Roles emerged naturally as they worked together, resulting in interesting outcomes such as parks, houses, schools, and even local music festivals crafted entirely from LEGO® pieces.

The study's findings indicated that collaborative experiences could contribute to an increase in rolefulness. In addition to working with young adults, Daiki also organised workshops for infants and their parents, utilising Duplo® blocks. During these sessions, parents and infants collaborated to construct animals using the blocks. This process provided infants with simple role satisfaction and offered parents insights into their children's interests, fostering a strong rapport between parents and their children.

The rolefulness scale

Daiki came up with the rolefulness scale to evaluate rolefulness. It is a five-point scale that measures the two factors of rolefulness (social and internal rolefulness).

The items under social rolefulness are:

  • I’m useful in society
  • I can apply my strong point for society
  • My role is necessary for other people
  • I have a role in the group I belong to
  • I carry out a social role

The items for internal rolefulness are:

  • I realise my individuality by my role
  • I’m satisfied with my role
  • I gain confidence because of my role
  • My role brings out my individuality
  • I have a role that is only mine

Participants were asked to use a scale of one (lowest) to five (highest) to indicate how much they agreed with each statement. These items show that social rolefulness pertains to interpersonal relationships, while internal rolefulness is all about personal aspects such as self-identity and confidence.

The quadrant model

Daiki’s study revealed that social rolefulness is developed first, followed by internal rolefuleness. This relationship underpins the quadrant model, which explores where people are with respect to both types of rolefulness. The model consists of four areas:

  • Integrated - both social and internal rolefulness are very high
  • Developing - high social rolefulness, but low internal rolefulness
  • Immature - both social and internal rolefulness are low
  • Groundless - low social rolefulness and high internal rolefulness

Role confusion

Role confusion is a state where people aren’t satisfied with their roles. For instance, during disruptive events such as COVID-19, where everyone was forced to stay in their homes and adjust to doing everything online, many people can feel lost and confused about their roles.

Through their roles, people have positive interactions and generally feel positive. However, when they experience a lack of those roles, people lose their sense of purpose or meaning in life.

Roles Ikigai Tribe

Relation of social rolefulness to social experiences

Social rolefulness is theoretically correlated with social experiences. Interpersonal communication is essential – people need to develop social and communication skills to establish and maintain good relationships with others. Hence, Daiki concluded that people with satisfactory social and social skills can achieve adequate social rolefulness.

Internal rolefulness can only begin to develop after social rolefulness is formed. Having positive relationships with others helps people to develop their self-esteem and gain belief and confidence in their own abilities.

Increasing rolefulness

Daiki believes that numerous opportunities exist to enhance rolefulness in people's daily lives, such as engaging in ordinary activities like greeting others, having conversations, and showing gratitude. He thinks that actual conversations play a vital role in boosting individuals' rolefulness, alongside acknowledging and accepting the roles of others.

Role of others

Advice for people to feel more rolefulness

Daiki's advice for young people is to value the daily roles they play in life. These roles can include small tasks like helping with household chores and having conversations with friends and family. These simple roles can bring satisfaction and confidence.

Psychological Research

Daiki’s ikigai

Daiki has several sources of ikigai. One of these is definitely his success in his social role. He also feels ikigai every time people take notice of his team’s research. More personal sources of ikigai include family, friends, and hobbies.


Our lives are composed of various roles which make up who we are. We can play different roles for every person that we meet, and each person may see us differently – but all roles are similar in that they can have a notable impact on others' lives. If we just pay attention to the roles that we have and how each may impact others, we can feel a sense of significance which can lead to feeling more ikigai in our lives.