The World Congress on Positive Psychology in Los Angeles

Published: July 14th 2013
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Hamburg - Munich - Los Angeles

The Westin Bonaventure HotelThe Westin Bonaventure HotelThe Westin Bonaventure Hotel

... in Downtown Los Angeles, where the Congress took place.
The day after Thais and her family had left, I caught a plane to Los Angeles because I was going to attend the Third World Congress on Positive Psychology. Preparing for it had been a challenge. Originally, my intention had been to have my two posters and one elevator pitch type presentation ready before going to Finland, but due to loads of other work to do, I had not managed to finish even one of them. So I needed to do it all while Thais was there, which was very unfortunate, but finally I had everything ready. Just on time, I went to have my posters printed at 4 p.m. the day before my flight to the US…

The journey to Los Angeles via Munich went smoothly, and I arrived in the hotel on Wednesday evening. I had booked a room in the hotel in which the congress would take place, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown LA. For me, the congress started on Thursday morning with the first workshop I had booked: multilevel modeling. Statistics, nerdy stuff, but very instructing. After the workshop, I had the unexpected privilege of having lunch with Shane Lopez, one of the well-known researchers in the field of Positive Psychology,
The hotel poolThe hotel poolThe hotel pool

... in the Westin Bonaventure Hotel. View from the lift on the way up!
famous for his work on hope. Chris, the researcher that had sat next to me in the workshop, had asked me whether I wanted to have lunch with her, and on our way to the restaurant, we bumped into Shane and it turned out that Chris and her were friends and she invited him to have lunch with us. Very interesting, I can tell you! In the afternoon, I attended a second workshop on naturalistic research methods: how can we assess people’s day-to-day experiences using modern devices such as smart phones (or even “dumb phones”, i.e. old school phones that you can merely use for telephone calls and text messages)?

The official congress opening was on Thursday evening. I have written something about the Congress in general on our scienceblog. For me, the congress was pretty exciting and intense. I had submitted two posters, both of them studies I had conducted in pursuing my Ph.D. degree. In one, I had created a short, online-adapted version of a questionnaire assessing one’s current mood. The other one was the preliminary result of my main experiment on how different emotions affect the performance on a test assessing logical reasoning. I had finished
Katha & one of her postersKatha & one of her postersKatha & one of her posters

The Impact of Specific Positive and Negative Emotions on the Performance on an IQ Test.
my data collection by the end of last year, however, the data are quite challenging (I won’t bore you with the details here), so I had not made as much progress with my analyses as I had wished I would. Therefore, I was not completely comfortable with presenting them.

I had also submitted this study for the “Student Data Blitz”, an elevator pitch type presentation students attending the Congress could apply for prior to the event. My submission had been amongst the eight selected, and each of us had three minutes to present our study to a panel of three experienced researchers that afterwards gave a short feedback to help us proceed with our projects. This event took place on Friday. My presentation went surprisingly well (I had been very pessimistic in advance) and I got a lot of positive feedback and everyone was impressed and I would almost have won the first prize. However, I did not answer the questions asked afterwards in a sound enough manner. Not until afterwards it occurred to me what the jury had wanted to know and what the “right” replies would have been. But, as I am a Positive Psychologist, I took
Skyline of Bunker HillSkyline of Bunker HillSkyline of Bunker Hill

... in the evening sun.
this as a learning experience. Prepare in advance for the questions that might be asked, and when you are not sure about what the person asking the question wants to know, ask them to clarify the question. In any case, the jury pointed out that my presentation had been excellent and gave me a special “second” prize.

My poster presentation was on Saturday. Well, presenting a poster is not so much about really presenting something. You put up the poster and stand next to it and wait for people to come, look at it and ask questions. This can be boring (and it partly was because my two posters were in a dark and rather remote part of the hall), but it can also be fruitful (when interested people come and look at the poster and have maybe faced similar challenges with their data and can give you some valuable input).

I also got to talk to Barbara Fredrickson, the researcher who inspired my Ph.D. work. She had given a talk on her most recent research topic, Love (on which she has also published a book, “Love 2.0”). I had already talked to her on the European Congress on
Walt Disney Concert HallWalt Disney Concert HallWalt Disney Concert Hall

... on Bunker Hill.
Positive Psychology in Copenhagen three years ago, and she had given me some helpful advice, so now that I had finished my data collection, I wanted to talk to her again. And I must say that I was very impressed by her once more. Whenever she gets off the stage, there is a whole bunch of people surrounding her, asking her questions, or making her sign books or take pictures with them. She listens to everyone and has a friendly and encouraging word and some helpful advice for each single person. I waited patiently for a while and let those who only wanted to take a picture or have their books signed talk to her first. Eventually, she looked at me and said that she had seen me waiting patiently for a while already (!) and encouraged me to talk to her. So I happily told her about my study. She was interested, gave me some advice and asked me to email her my study once I had written it up. Wow! What an amazing person, really! She truly walks the talk.

In the mornings, I had time for running (which was a good thing to do early because
El Pueblo IEl Pueblo IEl Pueblo I

The oldest building in the city of Los Angeles, dating from the late 1700s.
during the day it was really hot), and in the evenings, I took some time for walking around the city. On Friday evening, I walked up Bunker Hill and had a strange encounter. I was looking at the buildings and apparently failed to pay attention to where I was walking. Suddenly a woman addressed me in a very friendly and calm voice. At first, I thought she was going to ask me a question, until I suddenly realised that she was actually being very unfriendly. Apparently she was upset because I had not paid attention to where I was walking, had walked into her way and had made her get out of my way. This was strange because the pavement was quite wide and there had only been the two of us. I was super confused because she was saying things like “You better watch your f*** self” in a super friendly and calm voice with almost a smile on her face. And then, before I could even say sorry, she walked away. I was VERY confused, but continued walking up the hill and took some time to stroll through the Music Center, an arrangement of various buildings that are
El Pueblo IIEl Pueblo IIEl Pueblo II

Church and restaurants.
all dedicated to the performing arts. There is the famous Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The architecture is interesting, particularly the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and I like the atmosphere there.

On my way back, I went through historic Spring Street in Downtown, which is right at the bottom of Bunker Hill. I wanted to cross Pershing Square on my way back to the hotel, but the road leading there from Spring Street was barricaded and there were quite a few policemen. I talked to one of the salespersons in one of the nearby shops and learned that apparently the police had been chasing someone by car, who, while trying to escape, had crashed into the window of a shop. The same thing had happened just around the corner in the previous week. What a nice area! I walked back to the hotel using a detour and attended a reception organised by the Master of Applied Positive Psychology Programme of the University of Pennsylvania. It was a pleasant evening with nice company on a terrace of the hotel. After the reception, two other Congress attendees and I went
El Pueblo IIIEl Pueblo IIIEl Pueblo III

Lots of Mexican goods are being sold here.
up into the rooftop bar in the hotel, which revolves and offers a great view of the city.

On Saturday evening, I went for another walk through town. I went up Bunker Hill once more and walked past the Music Center and from there into Chinatown, which is just on the other side of the hill. There was a gate with two dragons, but after entering it, there was not much to see. The buildings looked pretty much the same like in other parts of the city, the only thing was that there were some Chinese ornaments on them, that the shop signs were all in Chinese and that in the shops, one could buy Chinese products. And of course there were quite a few Chinese people in the area. But that was about it. I continued to El Pueblo, which is the oldest part of the city. In this area, the first houses and the first church were built, and there is the oldest house of Los Angeles, dating from the late 1700s. I found it quite nice there because there is a nicely decorated pedestrian area with Mexican restaurants and shops selling Mexican groceries, clothes, and other
Little Tokyo ILittle Tokyo ILittle Tokyo I

The entrance.
products. Also, the old church is still there and can be entered.

I continued to Little Tokyo where (who would have guessed!) the houses and streets are decorated in Japanese style and there are Japanese shops and restaurants. The pedestrian area was decorated with Japanese lanterns, and there was some kind of music event going on. I did not stay for long and made my way back up to Bunker Hill because I did not want to walk through Downtown too late at night. I like Bunker Hill, but walking through Downtown always gives me an awkward feeling, therefore I don’t really enjoy being there. At the Music Center, I had seen a nice Brasserie on my way to Chinatown that I now went to. I had a great meal, sitting outside in the warm air and just watching what was going on in the area. I think they were recording some scenes for a film because a car with other accompanying cars and motorbikes with cameras on them drove by a few times. That’s LA!

The next day was the last day of the congress, and in the early afternoon, I was picked up from the hotel
Little Tokyo IILittle Tokyo IILittle Tokyo II

Believe it or not: a Hello Kitty shop!!!
by the airport shuttle and flew to Seattle to spend a few days with my friend Melissa. I was looking forward to that, but that will be the next story!

Additional photos below
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The gate at the entrance.
Opening Ceremony of the CongressOpening Ceremony of the Congress
Opening Ceremony of the Congress

... with Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi on stage.

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