My first big conference as a PhD student: the APA Annual Convention (USA)

One of the perks of being a PhD researcher is that once in a while you get to take a free trip to present your research. This summer I was lucky enough to go on such a trip. I had submitted my first paper to the Society of Consumer Psychology track at the APA Annual Convention and it was accepted for presentation. So, I went across the Atlantic to Denver, Colorado (USA) to present my research on the role of social influences in consumer decision making.

At the annual APA convention all 56 divisions are represented. This makes both the program and the attendee profile very diverse. Visitors range from PhD’s like myself, to actual practitioners of psychology. Consequently, there are lots of talks to visit and things to be learned. Who knew that being a skateboarder actually improves your spatial perception. That curious consumers are easily nudged towards healthy choices. Or how kids gladly choose smaller (low-cal) meals if it earns them a toy.

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The APA also has a lot of attention to development of graduate students, as is reflected by the many general skills sessions and a large number of poster sessions. So, one can learn how to write, and review, your first paper, as well as get insights on how to handle student debts. The convention also has a large number of symposia where they discussed specific topics in a particular field, as well as the general trajectory of a division. One of the symposia I attended was a celebration of the society of Health Psychology, including nearly all of the presidents from the beginning up to now. The session had an interesting discussion on the establishment of the division, out of a need to combine disciplines, as well as the direction of the field; a call to continue and develop the multidisciplinary nature of the field.

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As customary to a conference, the APA convention also had its own party. The location of which was the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, located on the outskirts of Denver with a great view of the downtown area and a distant view of the Rocky Mountains. The museum was currently housing an exhibition called ‘Robot Revolution’. As the name suggests, it contains all sorts of (futuristic) robots. Like the one that can solve a Rubix cube.

The APA annual convention is a great conference for those interested to broaden their horizon and explore different disciplines within the realm of psychology. The conference has something for everybody and the four days are filled with numerous activities. I very much enjoyed my time there. Yet, I do have to admit that the scenery played a big role in that as well.

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