In July of 2012 I spent two weeks in South Africa, attending two psychology conferences.  The first was the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology in Stellenbosch, a wine area east of Cape Town.  The second was the International Congress of Psychology in Cape Town. I saw more than two dozen colleagues that I knew from previous conferences, and I met that many more at each of these conferences.   I gave presentations at both conferences based on my online research on Intimate Relationships in collaboration with colleagues around the world.

         I also visited art and history museums, and one of the Townships in which many black Africans still live in poverty.  Before describing my experiences, I will summarize some history of Cape Town, and mention my previous trip to Cape Town ten years ago. I have identified 51 photos that are posted at the website



        I learned the following primarily from The Rough Guide to Cape Town 2012.   Rock art indicates that hunter-gatherers lived on the Western Cape 30,000 years ago.  Two thousand years ago communities herded sheep and cattle.  Portuguese were the first Europeans to round the Cape in the 1480s, but the first settlement was by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 to provide a place to replenish food supplies for ships on their way to the East Indies (India, Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, and other islands) from Europe (PHOTO 1).

        The Dutch fought the local inhabitants in a series of Khoikoi-Dutch wars, stealing their sheep and cattle, and later brought slaves from West Africa, Madagascar, India, and Indonesia to work in the gardens and do other manual labor.

        In 1789 the British seized Cape Town, and in 1808 abolished slavery legally, although many remained in working conditions not far from slavery. In 1867 Diamonds were discovered north of Cape Town in Kimberly, and in the1880s gold was discovered near Johannesburg, bringing prosperity to Cape Town since its harbor became the gateway.  In 1899 Britain attacked the Boer colonies to the north in the Anglo-Boer wars (Boer is the Dutch word for farmer and refers to descendants of Dutch colonists), uniting the colonies as the Union of South Africa in 1910. 

        In 1948 the National Party came to power and established Apartheid, in which White persons, Black persons, and Coloured persons (those of mixed White, Black, and Asian backgrounds) were strictly segregated.  Nelson Mandela became a leader of the African National Congress that protested apartheid, and was imprisoned on Robben Island in 1962.  Under increasing pressure from other nations, F.W. de Klerk released Nelson Mandela in 1990, and a new constitution was adopted resulting in Nelson Mandela being elected president of South Africa in 1994.



        In the spring of 2002, I taught in a program called Semester at Sea.  There were about 600 college students, 30 professors and their families, 30 staff and their families, and two dozen "grandparents," on a ship that spent a semester traveling around the world. Half of the time everyone was in classes on the ship, and the other half of the time was spent in port in ten cities around the world.  One of the ports was Cape Town, where I saw the nice houses owned by White persons near the harbor, and went on several fieldtrips to the Townships on the east side of Table Mountain (PHOTO 2), where most Black persons lived in shanties.

         I also visited Robben Island (NW corner of PHOTO 2) with Dennis Brutus who was on the ship with us and had been imprisoned with Nelson Mandela.  On my visit to Cape Town in 2012 I was curious to see how much progress had been made in replacing shanties with better housing.



        On Sunday July 15 I took an overnight flight from Los Angeles to London that lasted ten hours.  I was able to sleep a few hours by drinking some wine, taking 3 mg of melatonin (the chemical your brain releases to make you sleep), and by wearing Bose noise-cancelling headphones, which reduced the loud roar of the engines to a much lower level.  

        I changed planes in London for an 11.5 hour flight to Cape Town, but wasn't able to sleep much since my body felt it was daytime.  I was able to reserve an exit row seat for the first flight, but only a bulkhead seat for the second flight so my legs were cramped.  I arrived at the Cape Town airport Tuesday morning local time, and took a shuttle ride (PHOTO 3) to Stellenbosch (PHOTO 4) at the base of a mountain (PHOTO 5) in the wine area just east of Cape Town (PHOTO 6).

        I checked into a residence hall at Stellenbosch University (PHOTO 7), then explored the Stellenbosch History Museum which consisted of four historical houses. One of the houses (PHOTO 8) had an unusually wide fireplace for cooking (PHOTO 9).  Another had a portable shower (PHOTO 10) that I had never seen anywhere else in the world. 



        Sunday evening was the Opening Ceremony of the International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology (PHOTO 11), which included welcoming speeches, and performances of African music (PHOTO 12), dancing, jazz (PHOTO 13), and singing (PHOTO 14). IACCP always has cultural performances at its conferences since its members have a strong interest in different cultures.  Afterward there was a reception with wine at which I saw many colleagues that I had met at previous IACCP conferences all over the world, and began meeting new ones.

        The residence hall was cold, since it didn't have any heat, and it was winter in the southern hemisphere.  I was warm enough once I got into bed under two blankets. But it was chilly going to and from the bathroom down the hall in my bathing trunks, to take a shower without getting my pants cuffs wet on the shower room floor!  Breakfast was served in the residence hall dining room, but lunch was in the student union building (PHOTO 15).

        During the days Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and half of Saturday, I attended conference sessions in classroom buildings on campus (PHOTO 16).  To supplement my notes, I often took photos of the PowerPoint slides, to capture key ideas and references.  My camera has a low-light feature that allows taking photos without flash that would distract speakers and wash out the projected slides.  I also discovered that I could turn off the clicking noises my camera makes that might annoy others nearby.

        One of the sessions was on Resilience, the ability to deal with adverse circumstances.  It is not just a trait of a person, as previously emphasized, but also depends on social supports available to that person in the environment.  Another session was on race relations in South Africa since Apartheid, and reported that while schools are integrated, racial groups often segregate themselves in informal spaces on campus.  

        Other interesting findings included the following:  religions that demand more often engender greater commitment; prosocial songs can encourage prosocial behavior; children are becoming less rigid in gender-role behaviors; more women than before are attending universities in the Arab world and are becoming managers of their own businesses; and brain scans reveal that bicultural people's brains are activated in somewhat different areas when switching cultural ways of thinking!



        On Wednesday night there was a Wine and Cheese Tasting, hosted by six local wineries (PHOTO 17), which provided another opportunity to chat with colleagues.  At the end of the event, those remaining were invited to go to a dance club a few blocks away downtown.  Whenever I go to a psychology conference anywhere in the world, there always are psychology professors in a local dance club! 

        Here, as in clubs elsewhere, other dancers frequently imitated my energetic hand motions, and often wanted a picture taken with me.  They made comments like "I admire your stamina,"  "I want to be like you," and "I respect you for dancing here."

        On Thursday night there was a dinner for IACCP officers and publication editors.  I am one of the associate editors of the Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, which is available for free at

        On Friday night there was a Gala Dinner at a nearby local winery, which included African musicians during dinner (PHOTO 18), and a DJ for dancing afterward.  When we returned to town, a group of us continued dancing at the previous dance club downtown!



        On Saturday morning I gave my presentation on "Cross Cultural Similarities in Importance of Mate Selection Criteria," co-authored with nine collaborators, based on data we collected at Previous theorists had emphasized the importance of physical attractiveness for men, and social status for women, in selecting a mate.  

        Our data indicates that personality factors are rated most important for both men and women.  Physical attractiveness is only of moderate importance for men, and of equal importance for women.  Social status is of moderate importance for women, and only somewhat less important for men.  This is true across eight countries in North and South America and Europe.   We also need to collect data in countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and I met colleagues at both conferences on this trip who are willing to do so!



        On Sunday morning July 22 I took a shuttle to Cape Town (PHOTO 19), and checked into a hotel just four blocks from the Cape Town International Convention Center (PHOTO 20), where the International Congress of Psychology (PHOTO 21) was being held. 

        While the first conference had about 550 attendees, the second had 5,500 since it represented all areas of psychology from all over the world.  It meets only once every four years, and I attended the previous one in Berlin. 

        I walked to the Convention Center to check in for the conference, and heard an African Jazz band (PHOTO 22), and saw a woman on stilts who was much taller than I am! (PHOTO 23)

         I then walked back to the hotel to meet a friend who was arriving from Bangkok.  He and I had met in graduate school and travelled around Europe together, and I had visited him when he was teaching in Japan and after he had moved to Bangkok. 



        My friend arrived in time for us to go together to the Opening Ceremony, which included African dancers and a speech by Bishop Desmond Tutu (PHOTO 24), who said that you don't need to apologize for your existence.  This is consistent with my firm belief that everyone should be proud of who they are, regardless of their ethnic background or other identities.

        I attended conference sessions on Monday, Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday, Thursday afternoon, and Friday.  They were in rooms on various levels of the convention center (PHOTO 25).   As before, I took many photos of PowerPoint slides, and met colleagues at the sessions.

        One of the most interesting sessions was on Amusia, the inability to distinguish musical notes in people called "tone deaf."  Brain scans reveal that their ears can hear different tones, but they do not perceive the tones as being different. It is more likely to occur in families, so there is a genetic component.  Most can hear rhythms, although there are others who cannot perceive rhythms.

        Another session reported that cyberbullying is increasing around the world, at increasingly younger ages.  Girls bully more online while boys bully more in traditional ways.  A session on Autism discussed an early intervention program to increase capacity to share attention and emotion.  It also mentioned research on rats and mice that is exploring causes and treatments, but cautioned about generalizing to humans since one of the key social behaviors in rodents is genital sniffing!

        A session on eyewitness research explored why people often fail to remember facial differences in other racial groups, which can lead to misidentifications.  Part of the problem is encoding, and concentrating on remembering a face can help; and part is retrieval which can be helped by closing one's eyes when trying to recall a face, to avoid visual distractions.

        A session on gay parenting confirmed previous findings that children with gay parents are as well-adjusted as other children (and not more likely to be gay).  A session on excessive alcohol consumption noted that recent films portray that it is cool to be wasted.  A session on resilience discussed children raised by grandparents when parents migrate to find work, and noted that peers can provide support too.   There were many other interesting sessions as well.



        On Tuesday morning, my friend and I went on a tour of Table Mountain and the City.  The cable car on Table Mountain was closed for maintenance, so we couldn't go to the top, but the view was still panoramic halfway up.  We then rode the van up Signal Hill (also known as the Lion's rump) for a view of Lion's Head mountain on the right and Table Mountain on the left (PHOTO 26), and a view of Cape Town with Table Mountain spread out flat like a table behind it (PHOTO 27).  

        Down the side of Signal Hill we saw Bo-Kaap, the Malay Quarter where mixed descendants of slaves from the East Indies, called Coloured persons, have lived (PHOTO 28).  At Milnerton Beach I saw Table Mountain and Lion's Head again, while dipping my hand in the Atlantic Ocean (PHOTO 29).  On the eastern side of Cape Peninsula is the Indian Ocean.   The last stop on the tour was The Castle of Good Hope (PHOTOS 30 & 31), a star-shaped fort built by the Dutch East India Company between 1666 and 1679.

        On Tuesday evening, my friend and I had dinner with my daughter's fiancˇ, who is now teaching at the University of Cape Town.  My daughter had met him when they were both teaching at University College Cork in Ireland.  She planned to visit him again five days after I leave Cape Town!

        On Wednesday walking from the Convention Center to the hotel, there was a beautiful view of Table Mountain at twilight (PHOTO 32).  That evening my friend and I had dinner in a restaurant on the shore at the Alfred & Victoria Waterfront (PHOTOS 33 & 34).

        On Thursday morning we visited a Township, which is described below. Thursday evening was the Conference Party, where there was wine, hors d'oeuvres, and a live band for dancing! (PHOTO 35)



        The tour of the Township was led by one of the residents who had grown up in that Township.  Before going there, he first took us to District 6 in Cape Town, where the homes of Black residents had been bulldozed during Apartheid to make it a White area, but no White persons then wanted to buy there.  Now the government is building some houses there for former Black residents who want to return (PHOTO 36).

        In the Township, we first visited one of the hostels, which were buildings designed to house only male Black laborers not families (PHOTO 37).  A unit consists of a small dining area (PHOTO 38) along with six bedrooms housing three men each (PHOTO 39).  We also saw some houses that the government had contracted to replace shanties, so some progress has been made in the past decade, but not nearly enough.

        Many people still live in shanties, made of pieces of wood and metal that were available (PHOTO 40).  The government now provides electricity, but there is no running water in the shanties.  There is a faucet shared by a neighborhood (PHOTO 41), which I realized is similar to a community well. There are rows of toilet stalls along the side of a dirt road (PHOTO 42).  We went inside one shanty and walked by others. 

        We also visited a preschool, where kids sang to us.  The preschool is not sponsored by the government, so parents have to pay 50 rand a month, which is only about $6.25 but there is 50 percent unemployment in the Townships. 

        In conference sessions I learned that young men in the Townships feel the same obligations as other men elsewhere to prove their masculinity by having sex, having children, and supporting a family. But it is difficult to support a family with such a high unemployment rate.  Failure to meet the obligation they feel they need to provide may drive some fathers away in spite of their emotional attachment to their child.  In addition, families of an unwed mother may demand an Honor payment of thousands of Rand (hundreds of dollars) that they cannot pay which causes estrangement.

        As we left the Township, we passed by an area that had many vans that are used for commuting to Cape Town (PHOTO 43).  Everywhere in Cape Town I saw young Black men driving taxis, working in restaurants and hotels, and working in the convention center. They and other residents that my colleagues and I interacted with were always very friendly and helpful.



        On Friday morning I gave my presentation on "Similarities in Correlates of Relationship Commitment across Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Cultures," based on my online Intimate Relationships questionnaire in collaboration with colleagues around the world.  Many of the correlates of commitment to remain in an intimate relationship, such as feelings of love, self-disclosure, approval of partner by parents and others, are similar across eight countries and various kinds of relationships. 

        This suggests that some dynamics of intimacy may reflect universal human psychological processes, even though other aspects of intimate relationships are structured by cultural values and attitudes, such as sexual behavior.

        On Friday afternoon was the Closing Ceremony in which the "baton" (in this case a wine bottle) was symbolically passed to the organizers of the next conference, which will be in Yokohama, Japan, in 2016 (PHOTO 44).   Afterward there was a wine reception in which I met more colleagues interested in recruiting participants for my online study.




        On Saturday July 28 my friend and I met my daughter's fiancˇ at the Old Biscuit Mill for breakfast.  It has a many stands selling produce and many different kinds of foods (PHOTO 45).  On the taxi ride back to downtown, there was a great view of Table Mountain (PHOTO 46). 

        My friend and I then explored the Slave Lodge, which originally housed slaves of the Dutch East Indies Company, then was converted to government buildings, and is now a history museum (PHOTO 47).  We also saw some modern art installations at the South African National Gallery (PHOTO 48).  The area of Dutch East India Company gardens, where slaves grew produce for passing ships, now has parks, museums, and schools (PHOTOS 49 & 50).  I love the tiny trees on the mountain in photo 49!  We had lunch at a restaurant on Long Street where there are many restaurants and bars (PHOTO 51).

        On Saturday afternoon I took a shuttle to the airport for my long flight to London and another long flight to Los Angeles.  Fortunately I was able to reserve an exit row for both flights, so I could stretch my legs.  I was able to sleep only a little on the first flight, and gave up trying to sleep on the second flight, spending most of the time reading a novel.  I was so tired that I took a nap after my wife brought me home, which I am rarely able to do during the day!

        Overall, it was a most enjoyable trip.  I not only learned new things, but also saw previous friends, and met many new friends, which are the best aspects of traveling!