The Netherlands & Poland July 10-20, 2017

 

        In July of 2017 I attended an international psychology conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, followed by another conference in Warsaw, Poland.  I had visited both cities before, so they didn’t add to the count of 51 countries that I have explored on six continents so far.  I will describe highlights of my flights, the conference and sightseeing in Amsterdam, currency and language differences, then sightseeing and the conference in Warsaw. Photo numbers refer to 64 pictures that I have posted at https://amsterdamwarsaw2017.shutterfly.com/pictures/8.  Click on a photo to enlarge it and see its label, move the cursor out of the photo, then use the arrows to scroll through the photos.

 

Flights to and from Europe

        Since I am tall, I made flight reservations four months ahead so I could reserve seats with extra legroom by the bulkhead or in an exit row.  When I checked on the flights two months later, I found that all seats with extra legroom were gone and the airfare had doubled, so I was glad that I had purchased the tickets that far ahead. I had an 11-hour direct flight overnight from Los Angeles to Amsterdam. I read a book on my Kindle, and was able to sleep a couple hours on the plane by drinking wine and taking a 3 mg Melatonin tablet.  Melatonin is the chemical that your brainstem releases to make you sleep, and hence is the safest sleep-aid, provided that you don’t take it very often. In addition, I was wearing Bose noise-cancelling headphones that eliminate most but not all of the engine noise.  But I was still very tired when I arrived in Amsterdam, and it took several days to get over jetlag due to the 9-hour time shift.

        The flight from Amsterdam to Warsaw took only two hours in the same time zone, so it was easy.  But to fly from Warsaw back to Los Angeles, I had to change planes in Paris with a four-hour layover, so it took almost 24 hours from the time I got up in Warsaw until I was back home in Whittier at midnight.  But I slept half a night on the plane and half a night at home, and had very little jetlag, which was great!

 

First days of the conference in Amsterdam

        On Tuesday I took a train from the airport to the station close to the RAI convention center, and walked a few blocks to my hotel.  After checking in and relaxing, I walked back past the station which had many bikes parked outside (photo 1), to the convention center for the Opening Ceremony of the European Congress of Psychology (photo 2).   After the welcoming speeches, the European Commissioner for Health and Safety gave a talk in which he showed a slide of the European Pillar of Social Rights (photo 3), which states that “Everyone has the right to timely access to affordable, preventative and curative health care of good quality.”

        During the reception that followed, I chatted with a few friends that I had met at previous conferences, which was great, then had a curry dinner at a restaurant across the street before going back to my hotel.  I had trouble getting to sleep since it was early afternoon Los Angles time, so I slept in the next morning.

        On Wednesday afternoon I attended a session on Relationships, which had a talk about the importance of social support to buffer between work and family stressors.  It included the following quote from the World Health Organization: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity" (photo 4).  A second talk reported that persons anxiously attached to their partners are more likely to experience jealousy and conflict.  A third talk reported what men and women said that they should or shouldn't do in cross-sex friendships, like being supportive but not getting sexually involved.  The fourth talk was about resilience, which is the developable capacity to bounce back from adversity, which is stronger under psychological safety and resource networks.

        Another session was about emotional intelligence, the ability to perceive emotions accurately, use emotions to make decisions, understand emotions in others, and manage emotions.  Those with greater emotional intelligence have less work stress, enjoy their work, have less physical symptoms, and better social relationships.  One talk applied this to avoiding burnout in teachers, and two talks applied it to students.  

I also observed posters on a variety of topics that day.  Since there were about 2000 people at the ECP conference, there were many sessions at the same time, with posters available during coffee breaks and lunches between sessions.

 

Sightseeing in Amsterdam

        Wednesday evening I took a tram (photo 5) to explore downtown.  Amsterdam has many circular canals (see the map in photo 6), with tourist boats on the canals (photos 7 and 8), and narrow streets between the canals (photo 9).  I walked by the Royal Palace (photo 10), the National Monument (photo 11), the De Krijtberg church (photo 12), Munt Tower (photo 13), Rembrandt Square (photo 14), and another canal with houseboats (photo 15).  I also found the canal that has flower and flower bulb stalls (photos 16, 17, and 18).  The Netherlands is famous for tulips.

        It is also famous historically for wooden shoes, which I saw in a tourist shop window (photo 19).  The t-shirt in the window that says, “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go to Amsterdam” refers to the Red Light district, which is in the eastern part of downtown.  There the women are on display in windows.  According to a brochure in my hotel lobby, there are about 900 prostitutes in Amsterdam, where prostitution is legal, and it costs about 150 Euros a night to rent a window (which could be taken care of by three 15-minute customers).  Tolerated but not technically legal in Amsterdam is selling marijuana in coffee shops.

Amsterdam has some great museums, including the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, but they were closed in the evening, and I had visited them on a previous trip. 

 

The next day of the conference in Amsterdam

        Thursday I attended another session on emotion.  The first talk reported that children with behavioral problems tend to show lower levels of empathy.  The second found that children in institutional care were less skilled in recognizing and understanding emotions.  The third cited research that 4% of 200 senior executives reached the cutoff score for psychopathy, which includes being superficial, grandiose, and deceitful; lacking remorse and empathy; being impulsive; and engaging in antisocial behavior.  In contrast, in typically developing individuals, distress cues from others are experienced as aversive and inhibit antisocial behaviors.  The fourth found that with aging, it was more difficult to recognize anger, fear and sadness in facial expressions, but not disgust, surprise, and happiness.  The fifth found that elderly performed as well as the young in recognizing faces if they focused on the eyes instead of the mouth.

        After viewing several posters, I attended a session on resilience, which was a major theme of the conference.  The first paper was about an online system of promoting mental health in The Netherlands, in which a cellphone app provides encouragement for goal setting, motivation, coping with stress, exercise, and seeking social support, while monitoring for suicide prevention and referral to professionals.  The second explored predictors of depression, including feelings of rejection, impaired autonomy, over-vigilance, and lack of other-directedness. The third talked about empowerment, which involves taking control of one's life, with better self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-confidence.  The fourth talked about the need to develop career adaptability in undergraduates, which involves coping with career development, transitions, and work traumas, in a changing labor market.

        After lunch and more posters, there was session on young adults.  The first talked about student research in the form of a video documentary.  The second discussed theory of mind, which is being aware that others have thoughts, feelings, and perspectives that may differ from one's own, and that lack of this awareness can lead to behavioral problems.   The third discussed autonomy through individuation from parents, and the need to balance autonomy and connectedness for social skill development and well-being. 

        In a session on interpersonal relationships, I gave my presentation based on a subset of US data that I collected, from the cross-cultural study of Intimate Relationships that I have been conducting with colleagues around the world, which is online at https://cf2.whittier.edu/chill/ir.  The presentation was titled, "Gay Marriages:  How do they compare?"  I found that opposite-sex and same-sex marriages were very similar in regard to love, expressions of affect, conflict, relationship satisfaction, commitment, happiness, and life satisfaction.  The major area of difference was in regard to sexual behaviors, with female same-sex spouses reporting less frequent sex, and male same-sex spouses reporting more sexual partners and being somewhat more approving of extra-marital sex.

        After my talk, I met with the representative of Cambridge University Press, who told me not to stress about the September 1 deadline for the book manuscript based on the cross-cultural study of Intimate Relationships.  That was a big relief!

 

Conference dinner cruise in Amsterdam

        Thursday evening I took a tram downtown to the Central train station (photo 20) across from the Church of Saint Nicholas (photo 21), and then walked along the canal to the Passenger Terminal.  There I boarded a cruise ship for the conference dinner, which began with drinks on the deck with a view of the canal (photo 22), then dinner below as we moved down the canal.  The dinner was very crowded with more people than chairs, as we waited in line for food at various stations.  But after returning to the dock, the crowd thinned, and there was room for my friends and me to dance to familiar old songs played by a DJ on a computer, which was a lot of fun.

 

Last conference day in Amsterdam

        On Friday morning, I attended another session on interpersonal relationships.  The first paper used focus groups to study concerns of passengers on commuter trains in France, which included psychological distance, relations with others, feeling being under-considered, and lack of control. The information was then used to make changes in signs and stations to address these concerns to improve passenger experience!  The second paper explored cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects of gratitude in close friendship. Expressing gratitude influences the maintenance and quality of relationships. 

        The third paper addressed why people gossip, noting that it has positive as well as negative social functions.  It can be used to gather information, build networks, warn others, and have a good time, as well as manipulate and damage others.  The fourth discussed the psychological needs of autonomy, relatedness, and competence, in the context of romantic relations and marriage.  It noted that psychological control of the spouse resulted in decreased quality of marriage. The fifth paper did a case study of collective protest of dams on a river in India, noting the importance of perceived injustice, collective identity, community disintegration, place affiliation, and political process.

        After lunch, a session focused on neuroscience and learning.  The first paper cautioned about limitations of neuroscience research, and the need to overcome myths such as the notion that we only use 10% of our brain. The second paper was about the striatum in the forebrain, which responds to reward. Its activity increases in adolescence, which can increase risky behavior but also increase learning.  The third paper noted that we build an internal model of the world and ourselves.  It explored reading, which involves associating visual units with phonetic units.  The fourth paper theorized that learning from errors requires emotional involvement to motivate us to change.  

        After viewing more posters, I attended a session on health psychology.  The first paper concerned coping with cancer.  As in other contexts, problem-focused coping is more effective than emotion coping.  The second paper concerned return to work after cancer treatment, in which there may be problems of fatigue, concentration, anxiety, and social acceptance.  The third paper explored attitudes about death, noting that young people are more concerned about losing loved ones rather than their own death.

        That evening I took the tram downtown again (photo 23), to a street with popular restaurants (photo 24) for a rijstafel (rice table) dinner, which is rice surrounded by small portions of Indonesian dishes. I remembered liking it the first time I visited Amsterdam when I was a graduate student traveling around Europe by train.

 

Currency and language differences

        On Saturday I flew to Warsaw, and at the airport I exchanged the Euros I didn’t need in Amsterdam to Polish currency, since Poland still uses its own currency, as does the UK, even though they are both in the European Union.   Before there were Euros, I had to exchange currency every time I crossed a border in Europe.   And before ATM machines, I had to carry traveler’s checks, and sometimes could only cash them when banks were open. Now I just get the local currency from ATM machines almost anywhere in the world.

        From the airport, I took a train from the airport to Warsaw East Station.  But I had trouble anticipating which stop that was, since the list of stops was not in English, and I had to ask several people before finding someone who knew which stop and who spoke English.  Having studied Spanish, French, German, and Danish, and how words change in historical linguistics, I can often figure out signs in other West European languages, such as Italian, Dutch, and Swedish. But Polish is Slavic and it is hard for me to find words called cognates that are similar in other languages that I have some familiarity with.  

In the past I have carried a small dictionary of the language where I travel, but I have not needed one recently since many places around the world have signs in English and young people you can ask who have studied English in school.  But this time I wished that I had brought one to look up words like East.  It was also challenging to find the correct tram from the East station to SWSP University, since the usual trams were not running due to construction.   I was glad to finally arrive at the University (photo 25), where the International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology conference (photo 26) would begin the next day.

I had decided that it would be more convenient and less expensive to stay in a dormitory, but the dormitory was a mile away.   It took getting off the tram (photo 27) at the wrong stop once before I figured out that it was exactly three stops to and from the University.

 

Sightseeing in Warsaw

         On Sunday, the conference had arranged for a tour of the city.  Our bus took us near Old Town (photo 28), and we walked up the hill past St. Martin’s church (photo 29), to the long street (photo 30) that goes from Old Town to New Town (see the map in photo 31).  We saw a sign proclaiming Old Town as a UNESCO site (photo 32) with pictures showing that it had been destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. It was completely rebuilt in 1959.  Across the plaza on the right were the rebuilt Royal Palace (photo 33) and the city wall (photo 34).  Nearby were St. John’s Archcathedral (photo 35) and the Jesuit Church (photo 36), on the way to Market Square (photo 37) that had a mermaid statue (photo 38) and tourist shops where I bought a hat and ice cream (photo 39) while waiting for the Royal Palace to open.  Two rooms of the Royal Palace are shown in photos 40 and 41.

        After lunch we visited the Wilanow Palace (photo 42), which was reminiscent of Versailles in France.  Other photos show two Rooms (photos 43 and 44), a statue commemorating a battle with Ottoman Turks (photo 45), remnants from the Word War II bombing (photo 46), a garden (47), the courtyard (photo 48), and a close-up of the statues on the roof (photo 49). 

        We then rode to the park next to Lazienki Palace, where Chopin piano concerts (photo 50) are held on Sundays at the Chopin Monument (photo 51).  Chopin was born in Warsaw of Polish and French parents and went to Paris at age 21, then died at age 39, probably of tuberculosis.  We walked by the Lazienki Palace (photos 52 and 53) on the way back to the bus.

 

First days of the conference in Warsaw

        Sunday evening the Opening Ceremony of the International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology conference included a performance of Polish folktales (photos 54 and 55), which was followed by a reception at which I saw a number of friends from previous conferences and met new friends.  It is great to have friends all over the world! 

There were about 300 people at the IACCP conference, and there were keynote addresses for everyone to attend in between times when there were several sessions to choose.

        Monday morning the first keynote address was about what it meant to be European. Positive contacts with others tends to reduce prejudice and increase identification with being European, while perceived threats enhance prejudice and reduce identification with being European.

 I then attended a symposium on bicultural identity.  The first paper talked about harmony versus conflict between the two identities.  The second paper explored family, clan, and place identities, and increased individualistic values with migration from rural to urban environments.  The third reported that bicultural youth who have a secure base respond best to the demands of both their ethnic and mainstream cultures.  The fourth explored ethnic language as an important signifier of belongingness. The fifth discussed children who act as translators for their parents, noting that they sometimes withhold family information that would be disapproved by the host culture.

The second keynote address identified six stages in shifting away from ethnocentrism: denial, defense, minimization, acceptance, adaptation, and integration of cultural differences.  It said that culture is both the collective process of constructing reality and its product.

        In a symposium on religiosity, the first paper reported that religiosity can lead to generosity and campaigning for civil rights, but can also be a cause of conflict, prejudice, and maintaining social hierarchies.  The second paper reported more prejudice against atheists than against religious or ethnic groups.  The third reported more bias based on religious and ethnic categories than on other kinds of social categories.  

In another symposium on religion, the first paper found that sharing emotional experiences can lead to increased perception of similarity and reduced prejudice.  The next explored ethnic and mainstream identification of second-generation immigrants.  The third explored feeling threatened by immigrants even though they share the same religion.

This was followed by a Round Table discussion.  A key message was that to make a difference, psychologists should be a bridge between the elite and the people, not part of the elite.  After dinner, I went on a brief river cruise arranged by the conference (photo 56).

 

Next day of the conference in Warsaw

        The third keynote address reviewed research on whether classifications of color and emotion are determined by our biology or can be influenced by language and culture.  Two items from different color categories are more easily distinguished than two in the same category that are equally spaced in frequency, and this is influenced by the categories of the person’s language.

        I then attended a symposium on financial competence of emerging adults. The first and second papers found that parental financial behavior best predicted adolescent financial behavior, a modeling effect.  The third cited the statement that becoming “adult” today involves taking responsibility for yourself, making independent decisions, and becoming financially independent, rather than milestones like marriage or buying a home in the past. The fourth reported that materialistic goals were negatively related to life satisfaction for adolescents but not parents.

        The fourth keynote address talked about resources, values, and rights being important for human empowerment, and traced the development of these over time in cultural regions around the world.  However, while this occurred, social class distances increased, and those in the lower social class became more disaffected, leading to the rise of populist political parties.

        The next symposium, on interpersonal relationships, included my presentation, entitled “Parent choice versus own choice marriages in Pakistan.”  It was based on a printed questionnaire in Urdu given to married couples by my colleagues in Pakistan, as part of the larger cross-cultural study of intimate relationships that I have been conducting in collaboration with colleagues around the world.   Own choice husbands and wives reported more love, emotional closeness, expression of affection, disclosure, honesty; fewer problems and more positive responses to conflict; and greater sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and commitment, as well as greater happiness, life satisfaction, and ability to cope with stress,

        Other papers in the symposium talked about parental rejection leading to relationship anxiety and fear of intimacy; how intercultural couples configure their cultural and couple identities; similarities between Western and Chinese couple relationship standards, which are beliefs about the characteristics an intimate relationship should have, including emotional bonds and family responsibilities; and attitudes about arranged marriages in Bangladesh. 

A second symposium on interpersonal relationships reported the prevalence of arranged marriages in India (84% of married youth in a national survey in 2016); the importance of humor in intercultural relationships; love as passion and romantic suffering; sensory modes of attraction (visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory); and feeling and expressing gratitude, which increases marital satisfaction.

 Following a panel discussion of IACCP and the field of Cross-Cultural Psychology by senior leaders, we took a bus to the Citadel (photo 57), for the conference dinner, after which IACCP always has dancing (photo 58).  Again, it was a lot of fun dancing with friends!

 

Last day of the conference in Warsaw

        The fifth keynote was about self-enhancement, researching whether we rate ourselves higher on traits that we consider more central to our self-concept.  It reminded me of the Boston Couples Study, in which Zick Rubin, Anne Peplau, and I found that participants rated themselves above the scale midpoint on various traits, while rating their dating partners even higher – until they broke up! 

        The next session concerned intergroup relations. The first paper discussed various meanings of the term ethnic group, including race, nation of origin, language, other aspects of culture, and notions of common ancestry. The second paper talked about Social Imagery, in which people imagine a time of greatness in the past that is highly idealized.  It poses the question whether the 2014 Russian war in Ukraine was inspired by Russian literature about the Russian Empire.  The third talked about moral emotions, such as anger about injustice, that can make it morally acceptable to aggress against the source of those emotions.  The fourth explored attitudes of Ukrainians toward Russians and vice versa.

        The sixth keynote speaker noted that throughout history, societal violence has been used as a means of attaining societal goals, through conquest, plundering, and slavery.  Norms were created, such as the Ten Commandments and Early Roman Law, to regulate in-group violence but not out-group violence.  Social hierarchy reduced conflict over resources by controlling who had access. But then liberal ideology promoted construction of societies with free market economies and more individual freedom and rights. Liberal ideology focuses more on protecting individuals, while conservative ideology focuses more on protecting the group from threats inside and outside the group.

        The next session concerned having multiple identities.  The first paper talked about expanding the self through developing new identities, perspectives, and capabilities. The second paper was about parental support for developing autonomy among bicultural students.  The third paper reported that social rituals that promote emotional synchrony (e.g., through songs) can promote identities, as well as dispositions to fight enemies.   The fourth talked about compartmentalizing or integrating multicultural identities, or rejecting ethnic backgrounds, and bullying and micro-aggressions experienced.  The fifth talked about the importance of ethnic communities serving as bridges to the mainstream culture.

        The last session included a talk about the dimensions of language, which include phonetics, lexicology (word meanings), grammar, and writing systems.  The second talked about wrappers (cloths around babies used in Cameroon) as a cultural object (like slings, cradle boards, and strollers) that shapes interactions and childcare practices, such as soothing the infant and maximizing control while working.  The third paper used components of emotion (appraisals, action tendencies, bodily reactions, expressions, and feelings) to create a new measure of Emotional Understanding that is less culturally biased than Emotional Intelligence measures.

        After the conference ended, a friend and I went to Old Town, walking past the Visitationist Church (photo 59), Presidential Palace (photo 60), and the Carmelite Church (photo 61), to a restaurant across from the Royal Palace (photo 62) for dinner. The next day I took the train to the Warsaw airport, where I saw a pianist at a Chopin Music Spot (photo 63) before flying to the Paris airport (photo 64) and changing planes for Los Angeles.  As usual, the trip was intellectually stimulating, and I enjoyed interacting with old and new friends.