In January of 2013 I spent six days in New Orleans.  I gave a presentation at the Emotion Pre-Conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and attended sessions of the main conference.  I listened to several kinds of live music in the French Quarter, watched two Mardi Gras Parades, saw old cemeteries with tombs above ground, and explored museum exhibits about Mardi Gras, the Katrina Hurricane, and the history of World War II.  I will describe each of these, as well as my previous two trips to N'awlins as the locals call it.



            My first trip was the summer before I was a senior in college.  A fraternity brother and I took the train from San Francisco to New Orleans.  We attended a

national fraternity convention where we met brothers from other states, and then explored the French Quarter with them at night. 

            The second trip was to attend a psychology conference in 2002, where I saw New Orleans as it was before the Katrina Hurricane in 2005.  So I was curious on this trip to see how well New Orleans had recovered.  I didn't see any evidence of damage remaining in the Central Business District, French Quarter, or even in Metairie, but I didn't make it to the Ninth Ward where many volunteers had gone to help deal with the devastation there.



            I gave a blitz talk, which was new to me.  Each presenter had 4 minutes to present 4 PowerPoint slides plus 1 minute for discussion.  So I just had time to present what was in the Abstract I had submitted for a poster.  I was invited to give a blitz talk instead of a poster, which was better since the entire audience saw the presentation instead of just those who had time to wander by the poster during lunch. 

            My presentation was based on my cross-cultural study of Intimate Relationships in collaboration with colleagues in other countries, which is online in multiple languages at  I reported that relationship correlates of love were similar across gender, sex of partner, marital status, and countries in North America, South America, and Europe.  This suggests that love may be a universal human psychological process in spite of cultural and other differences in relationships.  [Future data collection explored this in six other regions of the world].

            There was a symposium on gender and emotion, which noted that men can often get away with expressing anger, while women may be thought too emotional and lose status if they do, depending on the situation.  Conversely, women can often cry (except at work), while men who cry may be thought too emotional and lose status (such as Muske during a presidential campaign), except in special circumstances (such as Obama tearing when talking about the shooting of children at Sandy Hook).



            The main conference began Thursday evening after the 26 pre-conferences were held on various topics in social psychology and personality.  It continued for only two more days, which meant that thousands of presentations were crammed together.   For the 3600 in attendance, there were nine symposium time slots lasting 75 minutes, with about 11 symposia at a time, and 4 presentations per symposium, totaling almost 400.  There were 7 poster time slots with about 300 posters each, totaling about 2100, lasting 90 minutes each and generally at the same time as breakfast or lunch.  I only had time to read and discuss about half a dozen posters during each session. 

            There also were six lectures that were scheduled without any competition, and they were some of the most interesting.  Sarah Hampson talked about personality and health.  People high on the Conscientious trait live longer, since they engage in healthier behaviors like diet, exercise, and substance non-abuse.  Colin DeYoung showed slides indicating areas of the brain that are associated with each of the Big 5 Personality traits, which are 40-80% heritable:  Extraversion (sociability), Agreeableness (vs. hostility), Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability (vs. Neuroticism), and Intellect/Openness to new experiences. 

            Robert Krueger talked about the politics of the DSM-V, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. Current diagnoses are all or none, and are based on having half of the symptoms of a diagnostic category.   Personality research indicates that there are dimensions of symptoms that vary, but it is difficult to get that approach accepted by many psychiatrists and insurance companies.

            Dan McAdams talked about Generativity, which he defined as concern about future generations.  It can include parenting, teaching, mentoring, or otherwise having a positive impact.  It is important in Narrative Identity, in which people try to make sense of their lives, how they came to be and where they are going.  There often is a theme of Redemption, which can be in the form of Atonement (salvation from sin, or being called), Liberation (from slavery or being held back), Upward Social Mobility (rags to riches), or Recovery (such as from addiction, as in his book on George W. Bush's recovery from alcoholism and business failure to succeed in politics). 

            Thalia Wheatley spoke about Daniel Wegner's pursuit of big ideas.  He encourages researchers to have fun answering questions.  James Pennebaker also gave career advice.  He said that Expressive Writing can improve health, immune function, and GPA of students.  He recommends research that is inductive (not just theory driven), focuses on behavior (so that it makes a difference), and studies things that are personal (so they are informed by experience).  He says to get ready for rejection, of papers and grants, and have high energy.  He has been blessed with close relationships and similar worldviews, among colleagues, graduate students, and family.

            These and other presentations at the conference reinforced the importance of personal relationships and finding your own meaning in life for life satisfaction. Other topics of presentations that I attended included prejudice, emotional expressions, jealousy, helping behavior, and effects of the internet.  One of the latter findings is that a mother's or other person's voice can reduce cortisol in stressful situations while an instant message does not.

            While at the conference I saw an alumna from Whittier College, two colleagues of my online cross-cultural research, and two others whom I had met at conferences in Poland and South Africa.  I also met authors while discussing their posters, and by chance sat next to a colleague on my return flight that I had met while waiting for my first flight in Los Angeles!  Conference attendees were easy to spot in the airport if they were carrying containers for their poster!



            When I had arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday afternoon, I had checked into a hotel two blocks from the French Quarter after taking a shuttle from the airport.  It was less expensive and more convenient than the hotels next to the Convention Center a mile away.  I had read some complaints online about hot water in the hotel, so I immediately checked that in the seventh floor room I had been given.  There was no water pressure in the shower tub, so I asked to be moved, and it was fine on the second floor!  

            Each night I ate dinner in a different restaurant and ordered local dishes.  Each morning I ate breakfast at a 24-hour restaurant a block from the hotel.  I walked to the Convention Center Thursday morning in the cold, then took a taxi back that evening, and took taxis back and forth after that except Saturday morning when I couldn't find a taxi!  I usually prefer to walk instead of taking a taxi, but the wind was cold!

             Wednesday evening the French Quarter had few crowds, either due to the cold or being mid-week not in the summer.  But Friday and Saturday nights it had the crowds that I expected from previous visits.  As usual, I found live music venues by walking around and listening, and poking my head in to see if it looked and sounded interesting.  I found a place with Zydeco music, and another with jazz, that I liked very much.  I also listened to some blues and some country western music.  I found a place with live dance music that I kept returning to, and another with a DJ that was inconsistent from night to night.  I tried to go to the Preservation Jazz Hall, but the line was too long!

            On Sunday evening I heard a jazz band playing in Jackson Square, and another during dinner in one of the restaurants in the French Market.



            Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French. It refers to the day before the start of Lent, which is about 40 days before Easter.  It is the last chance to sin before being extra holy during Lent, which Catholics observe as the period when Christ fasted in the desert and was tempted by Satan.  In many other countries it is called Carnival, and I was in Salvador, Brazil during Carnival when I was teaching on Semester at Sea in 2002.  The celebration varies from city to city, but usually involves parades.

            In New Orleans, the parades begin a few weekends before the actual date of Mardi Gras. This year there are 49 parades following 24 different routes, on 15 dates, between January 19 and February 12.  Each is organized by a different Krewe.

            The Krew du Vieux (which means Old and refers to the French Quarter) organized a parade that I attended on Saturday.  It had floats with explicit adult-themed depictions as well as floats with political satire.  Accompanying the floats were marchers in various costumes related to the themes of the floats.  Following that parade was another organized by Krewe Delusion which is a root organization for small Krewes.  It had simpler floats with various themes.

            On Sunday at noon there was parade organized by Little Rascals, which was a family-oriented children's parade.  It was much like community parades elsewhere, with many school bands, dance teams, and other groups that empower youth.  Several groups were sponsored by the County Sheriff, and targeted minority youth.  I was surprised at how many dance teams there were!  The floats were double decker with open sides, and kids on both levels were throwing beads, which is popular in New Orleans.  Some of the beads fell on the street, and I was impressed that a couple of  White policemen were picking up beads and giving them to small African American kids that were excitedly reaching for them. 

            The children's parade was held in the suburb of Metairie, which is along the lake northwest of the French Quarter.  To get there, I first took a trolley car up Canal Street to the old Cemeteries.  They have tombs above ground because the water table is so high!  To go west from there to Metairie I called a taxi on my cellphone.  After the parade I had lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant for a change of cuisine, then took a taxi to see museums on Jackson Square.



            In the Presbytere Museum there was special exhibit about the city's Resilience after the Katrina Hurricane and previous hurricanes.  It showed some of the devastation, and maps of the flooding.  It explained the failure of the levies, and noted the slow response of government officials at all levels.  It praised the volunteers who came to help, and some of the efforts to prepare better for future storms.

            The museum also had a Mardi Gras exhibit which explained some of the history of the activities, which drew on European and African parades.  The Krewes that organized the parades usually had lavish masquerade balls, and were exclusive groups that were limited to wealthy whites.  After the Civil Rights period, new Krewes were established in 1968 that were open to all races, and anyone could pay to attend the balls. 

            On Monday museums are often closed all over the world, but the Odgen Museum of southern art was supposed to be open so I walked there but found it locked.  Across the street was the National Museum of World War II, and I wasn't sure if I was in the mood to see it, but I am glad that I did.  It was excellent. A 50 minute "4D" film with special effects provided an overview, and a submarine exhibit gave a feel for the role that submarines played on both sides.  The main exhibit used multimedia to explain the invasions of other countries by Germany and Japan, the US reluctance to get involved in the conflict until the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the battles in Europe and Japan, and the atomic blasts in Japan. 

            There was an extensive exhibit on D-Day, when the US and its allies finally broke through the German defenses by storming beaches in Normandy, which provided a route for allied troops to eventually enter Germany.  The flat bottom boats used to land the troops were built in New Orleans as adaptations of boats used in the bayou.

            There also was an exhibit on Americans in Prisoner of War camps in Germany, which I lecture about in my Social Psychology class.  I learned new things in the museum, even though I already knew a great deal about the war. I had previously visited the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, where many Jews and others were killed, and the peace museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, where the atomic bombs were dropped.

            I ended up spending four hours in the museum, then walked back to my hotel and took a shuttle to the airport for my flight back to Los Angeles.