In July of 2010 I spent a week in Australia attending an international psychology conference in Melbourne, then spent a week exploring New Zealand on the way home.  This journal describes my experiences in Melbourne, and a separate journal describes my experiences in New Zealand.



            I flew from Los Angeles to Melbourne the evening of Sunday July 4.  It was a 15-hour flight, but I didnŐt mind it since I had an exit row seat with lots of legroom.  Since I am so tall (6Ő8Ó or 203cm), I always request a bulkhead or exit row seat.  It used to be free, but now some airlines are charging extra for it.  I was able to sleep for a couple of hours after drinking wine with dinner and taking a melatonin tablet.  Melatonin is what your brain releases when it is dark to make you sleepy, and therefore is the safest sleep aid.  I also did some schoolwork, read part of a fantasy novel, and reread the Melbourne section of LetŐs Go Australia.  LetŐs Go is my favorite guidebook series; it is written by Harvard College students for college students, so it lists inexpensive lodging and sightseeing as well as pubs for live music and dance clubs!

            Because the flight crossed the international dateline, I lost all of Monday and arrived on Tuesday morning, seven hours earlier and a day later than Los Angeles time!  I took the Skybus to the train station, ate lunch there, and then took a tram up to the University of Melbourne.  I checked into a residence hall of one of the undergraduate colleges there.  I knew that it had wifi, so I had brought a netbook computer.  I had bought it two weeks earlier so my wife could use it at a course on astrobiology (conditions for life on other planets) that she attended in Spain, and then I could use it on my trip.

            It was great to have the netbook for email and Microsoft Office, as well as phone calls using Skype that has free calls to other computers and cheap calls to any phone.  I had brought my European cellphone, but it was expensive to use for calls, and for some reason it wouldnŐt send text messages to the US.   It is normally easy and cheap to send international text messages to and from the US.   I use my US cellphone at home to send text messages to my daughter who is teaching ethnomusicology at the University College Cork in Ireland.

            I ate dinner at the college dining hall then explored Lygon Street just east of the university, which has many restaurants and bars.  By taking melatonin I was able to sleep that night in spite of jetlag. 



            On Wednesday I attended a pre-conference workshop.  It was on Relational Models Theory, by Alan Fiske from UCLA.  We joked about traveling thousands of miles to meet when we live across town in LA!

            The idea of RMT is that there are four basic models of social relationships, which determine who is eligible for what benefits or obligations in the relationship. 

á      In COMMUNAL SHARING, resources are shared based on group membership, an example being a family sharing a meal.

á       In AUTHORITY RANKING there are status differences so that those of higher status have more access to resources but also have more responsibility to protect those of lower status. 

á      In EQUALITY MATHCING everyone gets an equal share and people keep track of differences so that they can be balanced, such as keeping track of hours in a babysitting coop. It also involves everyone having an equal chance, such as everyone starting equal in a game. 

á      In MARKET PRICING there is some symbolic measure of value, such as money, and rewards are distributed proportional to inputs (which is called equity), an example being a rate of interest on a savings account or loan. 

It appears that these four models are universal, but the ways they are implemented may vary across cultures.  And a given relationship may involve more than one model, such as both Communal Sharing and Authority Ranking in a family.



            That evening the Opening Ceremony of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology conference was held at the Immigration Museum, which has exhibits telling about which groups came to Australia during which historical periods.  Most interesting was a panel that said that during World War II, persons of German, Italian, and Japanese descent were interred, similar to the internment of Japanese Americans in the US.   At the Opening Ceremony it was great to see friends again whom I had met at previous IACCP conferences, as well as meet new colleagues.  A group of us went to dinner afterward at one of the restaurants on Lygon Street.

            The next three days I attended lectures and symposia at the conference during the days, and had dinner with friends in the evenings.  The many topics included emotional expressions, immigration, romantic relationships, intercultural competence, social capital, parenting styles, life satisfaction, mental health services, racism, self-concepts, developmental psychology, neuroscience, and others.  One lecturer said that most research has been done on WEIRD people, defined as those from Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic societies, who are a minority of the worldŐs population!

            I will incorporate some of the things I learned at the conference into my teaching and research in psychology at Whittier College in a suburb of Los Angeles. One of my colleagues at the conference offered to translate my online Intimate Relationships questionnaire in German!  Other colleagues are translating it into other languages. It is available in English and Spanish [and now other languages] on my website at

            Saturday night the conference had a banquet at the Town Hall with live music for dancing.  That often is a highlight of IACCP conferences, to dance with your friends!

            Sunday morning I did some sightseeing with a friend from the conference.  I had been in Melbourne four years before when my wife attended a geology conference and my son and I came along, so I hadnŐt felt the need to do a lot of sightseeing during the conference.  My friend and I visited the State Library that has a famous domed ceiling, the Koorie Cultural Center that has aboriginal art, and the National Gallery of Victoria that has both European paintings and Australia aboriginal artifacts.

            Sunday evening I flew to Christchurch in New Zealand, which is described in a separate journal.