SWEDEN AND ENGLAND JULY 7-21, 2013

 

            In July of 2013 I spent two weeks in Europe. I attended the European Congress of Psychology in Stockholm, Sweden, where I presented a paper on Happiness based on my online cross-cultural study of Intimate Relationships. I then visited my daughter at Cambridge University in England where she has a grant to write a book on musical creativity. 

            I will describe my travel experiences and some of what I learned in each location, from museums, conference presentations, musical activities, plays, and conversations.  The photo numbers refer to pictures that I have posted at https://stockholmandcambridge.shutterfly.com/pictures/8.

 

TRAVEL TO STOCKHOLM

            I flew overnight from Los Angeles [photo 1] to Heathrow airport in London, which took eleven hours, then changed planes for the three-hour flight to Stockholm.  I had an exit row seat with extra legroom, since I would be cramped in a regular seat due to my height.  I wore my Bose noise-cancelling headphones which greatly reduced the engine and wind noise, so I could get a couple hours sleep with help from a glass of wine and 3 mg of melatonin, the chemical your brain releases to make you sleep.

            The rest of the time on the flights I was reading the book "The time traveler's guide to Medieval England: A handbook for visitors to the fourteen century" by Ian Mortimer (2008), which is a history book written like a travel guide.  It is a fascinating description of what life was like back then, that makes you really appreciate living now instead.

            I took an express train from the airport to the central train station in Stockholm, then the subway one stop to Gamla Stan, which means Old Town, on a small island in the river just south of downtown.  Seeing the familiar old buildings [photo 2] made it clear that I was "not in Kansas" as Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz.  I had been in Stockholm twice before, first as a graduate student traveling around Europe by Eurail pass, and later with my family after a semester in Denmark on an exchange program. 

            I checked into my hotel in Gamla Stan, which was an excellent location, then explored the island, including the pedestrian street [photo 3] which crossed the bridge, passing Parliament [photo 4], on the way to downtown [photo 5], eating dinner and ice cream [photo 6] along the way.

 

HISTORY OF SWEDEN

            The next day I took the subway to the central train station and a commuter train to the convention center, where I registered for the European Congress of Psychology and picked up my 4-day travel pass good on all of the trains, trams, and buses.  Since the Opening Ceremony wasn't until that evening, I spent several hours at the History Museum east of downtown.

              The exhibits included artifacts from graves as old as 4800 BC.  Jewelry and tools buried with children at age 12 were the same as for adults, suggesting that they were considered adults several thousand years ago.  During the first centuries AD, artifacts spread from the Roman Empire north, including wine glasses, bronze bells, and dice.  In the twelfth century, iron tools made farming more efficient, and water mills replaced grinding grain by hand. 

            Previously, there were local chieftains, but no sense of nations.  Royal clans founded monasteries and churches to bolster their claim of "divine right" to rule.  By the thirteenth century, the kingdom was unified, and trade agreements were made with North Germany, bringing immigrants to new towns like Stockholm.

            In the fourteenth century, the Black Death (bubonic plague) killed half of the population. Printing presses became available in the fifteenth century, and writing became more widespread for commercial accounting.  In 1527 Parliament resolved that the church would be Lutheran Protestant, making the king the head of the church.  He then confiscated the church's gold and silver objects, and made the kingship hereditary instead of elected.  

            In the seventeenth century, accusations of witchcraft were seen as a threat to the social order, and more than 300 women were executed.  The Industrial Revolution started in England in the eighteenth century and came to Sweden in the nineteenth.

            Although the Viking Age of raiding and conquests lasted only from about 800 to 1050 AD, images of Vikings began being used in the late nineteenth century to promote Swedish nationalism.  However, the Vikings did not wear helmets with horns as they are usually depicted.  The horns found in graves were actually worn attached to their belts, because they were used for drinking beer [photo 7].

            Universal elementary education was introduced in 1842, and universal voting was introduced in 1921. After World War II Sweden was one of the few countries in Europe with industry intact, and many immigrants came.

 

EUROPEAN CONGRESS OF PSYCHOLOGY

            In addition to the welcoming speeches, the Opening Ceremony [photo 8] included two performances by a cellist that had won national competitions, who was only 15 years old.  He played with great depth of feeling.  Among the many presentations that I attended during the following three days, some of the interesting findings included the following:

            Bilinguals tend to have more non-verbal creativity.  While some people are most creative when young, others are most creative when elderly.  Small differences between the Real Self and Ideal Self are motivating, while large differences create anxiety. Differences in attachment are reflected in brain scans, with those insecure having more amygdala activation.  Oxytocin can reduce anxiety and increase empathy.

            Men tend to perceive risky behaviors as less risky and having more benefits.  Women report many reasons why it is difficult to leave prostitution, and men give many reasons for paying for sex, including obtaining partners they otherwise could not attract, lack of emotional involvement, peer pressure, proving masculinity, and paying a prostitute being cheaper than paying for a girlfriend or spouse.

            DNA tests have revealed that at least 300 have been wrongly convicted of serious crimes, 3/4 of them due to faulty eyewitness testimony.  Our memories can be updated by new information, which can make them more accurate or less (such as seeing a similar wrong face in a police lineup).  Parents are increasingly supportive of autonomy yet are increasingly monitoring adolescents, in Turkey as in the US -- we call them "helicopter parents," since they hover over their kids. Caregiving can benefit the caregiver, unless it becomes too controlling or all encompassing. 

            Imagery activates the same brain areas as perception.  Depressed people lack positive images of the future.  To teach critical thinking skills, like verbal reasoning and analysis of arguments, students need to grapple and argue, not just listen to lectures.  Those with Asperger's (high functioning autism) viewing clips reported seeing what is happening but having difficulty interpreting it.  There are Normative Life Scripts (the events one is supposed to have in their life) and there are Individual Life Scripts (the events one actually has). 

            I gave my presentation on the morning of the last day.  It was based on my study of Intimate Relationships that is online at https://cf2.whittier.edu/chill/ir, in collaboration with colleagues in other countries.  I reported that dimensions of Intimacy that are correlated with Happiness, are similar across gender, sex of partner, and countries in North America, Latin America, and Europe.  Further data collection is planned for Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

            At the Closing Ceremony I learned that there were 1648 participants registered from 77 countries.  However, in many of the sessions some presenters did not show up, partly due to lack of travel funds in light of economic conditions.

 

SOCIAL EVENTS IN STOCKHOLM

            After the Opening Ceremony on Tuesday evening, there was a reception at the convention center.  On Wednesday night there was a reception at City Hall [photo 9], both in the inner courtyard [photo 10] and upstairs in a room with gold mosaics where Nobel Prize ceremonies are held [photo 11].  On Thursday evening the Conference Dinner, with live music for dancing, was in a restaurant at Skansen, an outdoor museum in which old buildings were brought from all over Sweden to reveal life in the past.

            I had conversations with friends that I had met at previous conferences, as well as new colleagues, including some who were interested in collaborating on my cross-cultural research.   Meeting people is the best part of traveling!

            On Friday night after the Closing Ceremony, I explored Södermalm, the large island south of Gamla Stan.  I happened to see a friend there, and had dinner with him and his wife on the plaza [photo 12].  On the way back I found a nightclub along the river just a few blocks from my hotel with a live band under the bridge [photo 13].  

 

MUSIC IN CAMBRIDGE

            Saturday morning I had a three-hour flight from Stockholm to Heathrow Airport in London, then took a three-hour bus ride past fields and woods [photo 14] to Cambridge. The bus had wifi so it was an opportunity to catch up on email.  My hotel in Stockholm also had wifi.  I had brought my Kindle Fire HD tablet, which is great for watching movies on Netflix, surfing the web, and reading email, as well as for reading documents and books.

            My daughter has a research grant at Cambridge University to write a book on musical creativity, based on her interviews of a hundred musicians, across the genres of classical, jazz, and folk music, in Finland, the US, and South Africa.  She is identifying some of the cultural beliefs, teaching techniques, and psychological factors that encourage or inhibit creativity.  For example, a common belief in Western cultures is that only some people have musical talent, and that only musical geniuses can compose great music.  In contrast, in South Africa there is a belief that everyone is musical, and can sing, learn to play a musical instrument, compose music, and dance.  Teaching techniques that only emphasize playing the correct notes can discourage personal expression and improvisation.  And fear of making mistakes creates anxiety that can interfere with performance.  [The book was later published in 2018 with the title Becoming Creative: Insights from Musicians in a Diverse World, by Juniper Hill].

            Sunday morning we took an hour and a half train ride [photo 15] to Norwich for All Day Sacred Harp Singing.  This is a Shape Note tradition based on a songbook called The Sacred Harp, which uses different shapes for notes to indicate relative pitch [photo 16].  The tradition began in the South of the US, but has been popular in England and elsewhere.  My daughter introduced it to Ireland three years ago by teaching an ensemble of it at University College Cork in Ireland, and organizing a Sacred Harp Convention there. Her students have continued the tradition, and some were singing with us in Norwich.

            Monday we spent most of the day discussing a draft of her book chapter on psychological factors relevant to musical creativity.  Wednesday evening we went to a jazz concert on the lawn at the Cambridge University Arboretum [photo 17].

 

EXPLORING CAMBRIDGE

            Cambridge is named after a bridge on the river Cam [photo 18], where it is popular to ride in boats that are punted with a pole [photo 19].

            Cambridge University has eleven undergraduate Colleges [photo 20].  The first was founded in 1284 after scholars fled from town-gown conflicts at Oxford University in 1209.  Most famous for tourists is King's College [photo 21], which has a beautiful Gothic chapel that took over a century to complete [phone 22].  Other colleges are noted for famous people who had been there, including Isaac Newton at Trinity College.

            On Wednesday my daughter and I rode bikes [photo 23] about six miles along the river [photo 24] to sit and read at a pub [photo 25].  It was pleasant biking out in the countryside, but we had to be careful avoiding traffic [photo 26] and pedestrians along the paths [photo 27] while crossing the city.

            On Friday we went on a bat safari [photo 28], riding in a boat that was being punted, carrying a bat detector that converts their echolocation sounds into frequencies that humans can hear [photo 29].  We only saw a few bats, but it was fun boating on the river.

            On Saturday we walked along the river [photo 30] to Orchard Tea Garden for scones [photo 31], where philosophers Wittgenstein and Russell and various writers used to hang out.  Late that evening we had dinner at an Indian restaurant, where the waitresses excitedly told us that Stephen Hawking (the brilliant physicist) had sat at our table just ten minutes before! 

 

SHAKESPEARE PLAYS

            There are fewer cultural events during the summer than in the school year, but an exception is the Cambridge Shakespeare festival, held on the lawns of various colleges in the evening.

            On Tuesday we saw Cymbeline at Downing College [photo 32], a play that was unfamiliar to me, about a princess who marries a commoner. Her husband is banished to Italy where a friend claims that all women are unfaithful, and bets that he can seduce the wife.  When he is not successful, he lies about it displaying a stolen bracelet, which sets off a complex chain of events. 

            On Thursday we saw Comedy of Errors at Robinson College [photo 33], with a couple of my daughter’s friends, and it was hilarious.  Identical twins with the same name had been separated due to a shipwreck, and they have identical twin slaves with the same names.  Later when they are in the same city, their identities are confused by everyone, with entertaining results.

            On Saturday afternoon we saw another Shakespeare play at Corpus Christi College [photo 34], which was performed by a touring company from the Globe Theatre in London.  It was King Lear, about a king who decides to step down and divide his kingdom among three daughters, not knowing that two will turn against him.  It reminded me of the conflict among the three sisters who were witches in “Oz the Great and Powerful.”  But the plot was very different and tragic.

            That evening we saw the film Wadjda, about a girl in Saudi Arabia who wants a bicycle but only boys rode bikes.  It was described as the first film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and the first by a female director.

 

MUSEUMS IN CAMBRIDGE

            While my daughter worked on her book and other scholarship, I visited some museums before and after meeting her for lunch on three days. 

            On Tuesday I explored the Fitzwilliam Museum of Art [photo 35]. In addition to some European paintings, Greek vases, and suits of Armor, it had an extensive exhibit of artifacts from tombs in Egypt dating back to 6000 BC. Most interesting was the fact that there are links between ancient Egyptian culture and modern African cultures, whereas we think of Egypt as Middle Eastern because its language is Arabic since people of Islamic culture came to Egypt in 642 AD.  There also was an exhibit of African Combs and devices that have been used to straighten hair [photo 36].  It was related to the documentary film shown on campus last semester called "Good Hair" about efforts to change tight curly hair to straight hair, including using chemicals that are harmful to the scalp.

            On Thursday I explored the Segwich Museum of Earth Sciences [photo 37].  It had an overwhelming number of fossils in glass cases, but most interesting was the exhibit on Darwin.  He liked to collect rocks, and was a geologist when he sailed on the HMS Beagle HMS at age 22 in 1831.  During the voyage he collected samples of rocks as well as fossils of plants and animals.  He was curious about how physical environments evolved, and noticed variations in animals in different environments, which led to him to discover processes of evolution.  (Recent studies reveal that humans share 99.9% of our DNA with each other, 98% with chimpanzees, at least 90% with all mammals -- including rats used in medical research, and at least 30% with all living things on this planet including plants and insects.  You didn't know that you were related to a banana!)

            I also visited the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, which has displays of artifacts from various cultures around the world.  In addition, it had an exhibit on Black Hair, including a barbershop and a hair salon.

            On Friday I explored four museums and a round church.  The first was the Polar Museum [photo 38], which described exhibitions to both the Arctic [photo 39] and the Antarctic [photo 40].  While the Artic is ocean and ice, the Antarctic is a continent that was not sighted until 1820.  The magnetic North Pole was first reached by James Clark Ross in 1829, while on a voyage with his uncle searching for the Northwest passage across North America.  Robert Falcon Scott led an expedition to the South Pole in a race with Roald Amundsen, and when he reached the South Pole in 1912 he discovered that Amundsen had been there the month before. He wrote in his diary, "Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority."  His diary was later found in a tent where he and his companions had died in a blizzard.  Another explorer was quoted as saying, "Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time that has ever been devised..."

            The second was the Whipple Museum of the History of Science which had many displays of historical scientific instruments, including astrolabes and sextants for navigation, planetarium models, microscopes, sundials and chronometers for telling time, calculating devices; globes of the earth, moon, and mars; and display models for teaching.            The third was the Cambridge and County Folk Museum [photo 41], which was in an old Inn.  It had many kinds of home furnishings from various historical periods, including children's toys. The fourth was the Museum of Classical Archeology, which had many plaster casts of Greek and Roman statues. 

            The round church [photo 42] was built around 1130.  It had panels describing the impact of Christianity in England over the centuries.  Most interesting was the explanation of the naming of the Puritans.  They wanted the Anglican Church to be "purified" of bishops and extraneous rituals, and were viewed as a threat to the religious and social order.  Many fled to the Netherlands and later to New England.  One group established the Plymouth Colony in 1620, where their strict attitudes about sexuality and disapproval of recreation has had long-term effects in the U.S.

 

BACK TO LA

            On Sunday I took a three-hour bus ride from Cambridge to Heathrow airport in London, then waited four hours for my eleven-hour flight back to LA.  The plane left about 4 PM London time and arrived about 7 PM Los Angeles time, due to the eight-hour difference in time zones.  So I was in Cambridge in the morning and in Whittier in the afternoon of the same day, but it was a long day.