Being a Psychonome, 2013

CN Tower from downtown Toronto

CN Tower from downtown Toronto

Toronto University of Art & Design

Toronto University of Art & Design

Art Gallery of Ontario

Art Gallery of Ontario

Last week I returned from attending the Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society (Psychonomics) which this year was held in Toronto, Canada. This conference brought back lots of memories for me as the Psychonomics meeting in 2005, also held in Toronto, was the first international conference I attended. In 2005 I’d been working as a full-time research assistant in a psychology department for nearly a year but I still didn’t really know if I was going to pursue a PhD and continue in academia or not. A lot has changed since then, both personally and professionally, and it was both weird and interesting to reflect on those things while in Toronto again.

Psychonomics is a great conference. Firstly, it’s free to attend! – No huge registration fees (and the membership fees are nominal too). Obviously if you’re not based in North America it is expensive to fly there, and downtown North American hotels are always pretty pricey, but it really is worth the price and the long flight*. Psychonomics is also the largest experimental psychology conference in the world. I don’t know how good it is for other areas of cognitive psychology (e.g., attention, perception) but for the research areas I am interested in (memory, metacognition) it is the best place to present your work, and to see the best new work coming out of the big North American cognitive labs. I still find that it can be pretty scary presenting your poster to a ‘big name’ whose papers you’ve read over and over, and sometimes they can verbally s&*% all over your data, but most of the time I have found their feedback and suggestions to be really helpful. 

Top 10 things that happened at Psychonomics 2013:

  1. Good catch-up with a random friend-of-a-friend who I bonded with two years ago at a different conference. It’s surprising who you connect with.
  2. Lovely lunch with a friend and his new daughter.
  3. Getting some great ideas for follow-up experiments from a certain colleague – he’s always doing that, I must keep going to conferences where he is going to be!
  4. Getting the question “But did your participants also make confidence judgments?” from the person who I would most expect to get that question from.
  5. Not embarrassing myself when introduced to a certain ‘big name’ academic like I did in Minneapolis (said academic wasn’t there this time, phew).
  6. Visiting the CN Tower and Art Gallery of Ontario – always good to have some down time.
  7. Having a particularly nice chat about my poster with someone I’d not met before. Definitely going to put him down as a reviewer.
  8. “Can you hold my credit card?” hilarity when out for curry… Maybe you had to be there?!
  9. Googling a certain ‘big name’ psychologist (who wasn’t at the conference) to show a friend how good looking he was!
  10. Catching up with many of my University of Victoria colleagues 🙂

Having working in North America for the last three years I’ve been able to attend Psychonomics every year since 2009. When I first attended in 2005 I remember feeling very daunted and overwhelmed by the scale of it compared to UK conferences (though it’s tiny compared to some other conferences, e.g., SfN). Since then I have made a lot of different contacts, some of whom have become proper friends, who regularly attend Psychonomics and going to Psychonomics now feels very homely. Having just moved back to the UK I probably can’t get funding to attend Psychonomics every year, which I’m sad about, but I’m trying to look on the bright side – it’ll give me time to get some amazing data together to present in two years time!

I do wish I could go every year though:

2014 — Long Beach, CA, November 20–23

2015 — Chicago, IL, November 19–22

2016 — Boston, MA, November 17–20

*On the flight to Toronto I got a row to myself so I had 3 seats, 3 blankets, and 3 pillows to snuggle up with while watching lots of films – I cannot understand people who don’t like long flights 🙂

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One response to “Being a Psychonome, 2013

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