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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Travel Grant Report by Daniela Becker

10.10.2016, by Sibylle Classen in grant report

University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Visit to University of Toronto, Canada, with Prof Mickey Inzlicht

The EASP travel grant allowed me to visit Mickey Inzlicht at the Toronto Laboratory for Social Neuroscience (Canada). I was also able to combine my stay with a visit to the Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) and the Conference of the Society for the Study of Motivation (SSM), for which I had organized a symposium and presented a poster, respectively. Looking back, I am surprised how much one can experience and learn in only six weeks.

The main reason for why I wanted to visit Mickey Inzlicht’s lab was, of course, our common interest in the topic of self-regulation. In my own (PhD) research I focus on the role of conflict (e.g., between an impulse and a higher-order goal) in the regulation of self-control efforts. Mickey Inzlicht had recently published a paper in which he and his co-authors developed a theoretical perspective on such a conflict-triggered control mechanism (Inzlicht, Bartholow, & Hirsch, 2015), so I was eager to discuss and share our ideas. Accordingly, I presented some of my own empirical work in their lab meeting, where I got valuable feedback from all lab members. Based on the ideas presented during the lab meeting, I discussed possible future avenues of research. At the end of the six weeks we had developed a research question and a suitable study-design and operationalization. The study itself will be executed in the fall 2016.

Another reason for why I wanted to visit Micky Inzlicht was because of his active engagement in the discussion on the state of (’crisis’ in) our field. I was curious to see how his (self-)critical but optimistic views are implemented in his lab, and I can only say that it was inspiring to see how this current ‘crisis’ can also be seen as an opportunity for improving the way we think about and do science. Besides a general emphasis on the importance of replications and preregistrations, I also felt that he encouraged us to be critical of and not too easily convinced by our own ideas and conclusions. As a young researcher, I found this attitude towards research highly motivating.

Finally, the overall value of this lab visit went far beyond my expectations. I met such nice people with interesting research ideas, perspectives, and life stories. It was great hanging out with them and I am sure our ways will cross again in the future. Also, I gained some insights into the differences between the North-American and the Dutch (or European) university/grant/educational system, and those have already helped me put some of my most recent experiences (changing from a Dutch to a German institute) into perspective. On a more touristic note, Toronto is the most diverse and colorful city I have visited so far, the Niagara falls are only half as exciting as advertised, and there is something about chips with gravy that seems to unite taste buds around the world.

All in all I had a fantastic time and I am very grateful to the EASP for making this possible.