In February of 2014 I made a four-day trip to Austin, Texas.  I attended the Society of Personality and Social Psychology conference, where I presented a poster, saw a few friends, and met new colleagues, including two who will collaborate on my intimate relationships across cultures research that is online at  I enjoyed music in the city that calls itself "the music capital of the world" and has two hundred venues for live music. I also spent time with my nephew and his wife, and met their daughter who was almost two.  I will describe my experiences and what I learned each day about current research in Social Psychology.



            I was able to fly to Austin from Long Beach, which was more convenient than leaving from LAX.  I had paid extra to reserve a seat in the front row, which had more legroom than regular seats that cramp my long legs.  While at the Long Beach airport, I saw someone carrying a poster, and asked if he were going to SPSP, and he said that he and his friends were.  I had printed my poster a smaller size that fit in my suitcase so I wouldn't have to carry it in my hand.

             In Austin I took a shuttle to my hotel and checked in, then quickly walked two blocks to the convention center, where I picked up my conference badge and program book, and hurried to hear the remaining opening lectures.  One reported that those who watched more media coverage of events like the September 11 attack became more fearful about terrorism.  Another lecture was about the massive amount of data being collected online that could be used for research.  For example, content analyses of Google Books, which includes 6% of the books ever published, reveal changes in word usage over time that reflect cultural changes.

            I then attended the Opening Reception, which had the first of the seven Poster Sessions that were held throughout the conference during meals and coffee breaks.  Each poster session had more than 300 posters, so there wasn't much time to look at them and talk with their authors during each hour and a half session.  In the first session, I saw posters that reported these findings: fewer negative effects of violent video games than originally demonstrated; people high in religiosity had more negative attitudes about swear words, but reported using them just as much; fear of violence led to precautions, but anger led to more risk-taking; mindfulness predicted healthier food preferences; thanking someone in advance increased compliance among those high in altruism, but decreased compliance among those low in altruism; those who used more metaphors demonstrated greater understanding of emotions, indicating that  metaphors can increase understanding of non-physical phenomena; those who had more positive attitudes about aging had more new friends later in life; personality was important in risk of divorce; and levels of depression and happiness in couples were reflected in observers' ratings of the ambience of their home living rooms!

            I walked back to my hotel to drop off my daypack, and met my nephew and his wife there.  They drove south to an area of live music that I wouldn't be able to walk to on another night, but it was quiet until the weekend, so we went to sixth street which was lively even on a Thursday night.  We walked around listening for music that sounded interesting, and stopped at two places to enjoy the music, before going to a famous bakery to eat.  I went to bed at 1 AM, which was only 11 PM LA time, since I had to be at a poster session at 8 AM the next day, which was 6 AM LA time.



            After a nice complimentary breakfast buffet at the hotel, I took my poster to display at the 8 AM poster session.  It was titled, " What counts as cheating in a committed relationship?"  It was based on my Multiple Identities Questionnaire answered by my students in Introductory Psychology.  While there were very high ratings that engaging in sexual activities was unfaithful, mean ratings of other behaviors decreased in the following order: flirting, fantasizing about sex, feeling affection, going to a movie at a theater, eating dinner at a restaurant, discussing personal issues, and studying together.  Men's and women's ratings were very similar, except that women rated feeling affection for someone else as slightly more unfaithful, and tended to view fantasizing about sex with someone else as more unfaithful.  In general, non-sexual behaviors were rated slightly more unfaithful by men and women who had more traditional values.

            I spent some of the time standing by my poster to discuss it, but also spent time looking at other posters, which reported these findings: women reported having orgasm less frequently than men, regardless of the sex of the partner; straight women perceived mating advice as more trustworthy from a gay man than from a straight woman or man, and gay men perceived a straight woman's advice more trustworthy than from another gay man or lesbian woman; people rating photos of couples assumed that those with less attractive partners would be less committed to their relationship [but my own analyses of data from the Boston Couples Study found that photo ratings of attractiveness did not predict couples' staying together or marriage]; and women's involvement in Friends with Benefits relationships was related to anxiety about attachment, while men's involvement was related to avoiding attachment.

            In other poster sessions later that day, I learned these findings: writing their Life Story helped students make career decisions; women who based their self-esteem on their physical appearance were more likely to feel shame about their bodies; self-esteem buffered negative emotions after failure; girls achieving in school were perceived as less intelligent if they were described as hard working; those who felt that humans are very different from animals were more likely to have racial prejudice; students with interracial roommates became less prejudiced; and those with more Openness to new experiences were more likely to believe in Evolution.

            There were four symposia times that day, and each time had up to nine symposia, with four papers presented at each.  The first symposium I attended was about power, and reminded me that those with lower power pay attention to the attitudes and behaviors of those higher in power, while those higher in power are less empathic and pay less attention to those lower in power.  The second was about concealed identities, and noted that stigma sensitizes concerns about being discovered.  The third included a talk about regulating emotions by the happy or sad things we display in dorm rooms or home.  The fourth was about rituals, and their use in enjoying food, socializing, and grieving.  I also attended an award ceremony, in which one talk related the Myers-Briggs preference dimensions to four of the Big 5 Personality dimensions that dominate the field today: Sensing/Intuition is highly correlated with Openness, Thinking/Feeling with Agreeableness, Judging/Perception negatively with Conscientiousness, and of course Extroversion/Introversion negatively with Extroversion.  The fifth of the Big 5 is Neuroticism or Emotional Instability.

            After the last session, I rode a pedicab that had a wide seat on two wheels connected to a bicycle up to sixth street.  I walked around listening for live music, and selected two places to listen.  I then went to a club that interspersed live music with a DJ.



            The poster sessions included the following findings:  Costa Ricans were happy and found meaning in life in spite of poverty; Latinos who were more acculturated to mainstream US culture engaged in more risky sexual behaviors; college students in the US and Turkey were equally likely to post achievement photos on Facebook, but those in the US posted more photos of improper behavior; imagining interaction with a famous gay or lesbian person reduced concerns about being misidentified as gay or lesbian; high wealth people were not as good at adapting in social environments where they had low social control; reactions to music were related to social motives such as the need to belong and identification with the in-group, suggesting that music evolved for social purposes; in studying hedonism it is important to distinguish between seeking excitement and pleasure since pleasure need not involve excitement; and those with conservative attitudes were less likely to endorse multi-culturalism and more likely to endorse colorblind ideology (ignoring race).

            The symposium sessions included the following results:  women flirted more when they were more fertile in their ovulatory cycle; stories were more effective than statistical evidence in influencing attitudes; administering naltrexone to block the opioid system in the brain reduced self-esteem, indicating that feeling good about the self was physiological not just mental; perceived partner responsiveness (believing that one's partner cares for, understands, and appreciates oneself) promoted passionate love, the health of one's child, and lowered risk of mortality.

            I again rode a pedicab to sixth street, listened to live music, and stayed later at a club with a great DJ, since I didn't have to get up early for the conference in the morning.



            While his wife was at work, my nephew picked me up at the hotel, and took us to a park where his daughter enjoyed the playground equipment. She was bright and cute, and attracted a lot of attention.  We rode a small train full of kids and parents around the park, then went to my nephew's favorite BBQ place for lunch.  Texas is famous for BBQ.  After they dropped me off at the airport, I flew to Long Beach and drove back to Whittier, full of new findings in Social Psychology.