What Can Stockholm Teach Me About Social Psychology?

Hello again!

One of my big motivations for applying to the DIS program, aside from the obvious plus of getting to spend part of my summer in the beautiful city of Stockholm, was the opportunity to learn about social psychology in a socially invigorating setting. After all, what better motivator for noticing the individual differences between people than being immersed in a whole new culture for a few weeks?

Social psychology is defined as:

An attempt to understand and explain how the thought, feeling, and behavior of individuals are influences by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others.

Gordon W. Allport (1968)

My professor provided us with this definition on our first day of class, though she went on to add that there is more to the science than this simple definition. She stressed the importance of the subjective human experience, the internal events that influence our decisions and behaviors.

Learning about this topic while also experiencing a new culture has greatly impacted my experience here. It has reminded me to consider the situation and the perspective of others as I navigate through the city, remembering that my ‘normal’ is different than the ‘normal’ of those around me. I am literally having to learn to play by their social rules instead of my own, an experience that is confusing but also capable of providing great insight into the place and the people I find myself with. 

My professor has also done an excellent job of using culturally relevant examples in class. When we were discussing the effects language can have on emotions and culture, she brought up the Swedish concept of lagom. This concept is greatly influential to almost every aspect of Swedish life and culture. The word is difficult to translate to English, but it essentially means “just the right amount of something.”  Knowing about this concept has been really helpful in understanding a lot of Swedish culture.

Through my class, I have also gone on several cultural excursions, called Field Studies. So far, we’ve visited the Karolinska Institute’s Emotion Lab and the Fotografiska.

At the Emotion Lab, we were able to see first-hand how research is conducted at the Institute and participate in some of the methods they use to conduct data, including facial electrodes that can detect whether a person is frowning or smiling. After the visit, we were asked to write a report in which we designed our own experiment based on what we learned. At the Fotografiska, the Photography Museum, we were tasked with viewing the beautiful pieces of photography through the lens of a social psychologist and write a report on how some on the photos depicted or related to the concepts we covered in class.  

My class in front of the Karolinska Institute
My favorite photo at the Fotografiska: Äng by Jessica Silversaga

My classmates and I have become very close among ourselves and with our professor. Outside of Field Study excursions, we’ve also made several other trips as a group. My favorite of these trips was a tour of the Royal Palace, where we learned about the history of the Swedish monarchy, toured the grand rooms of the Palace where kings, queens, and presidents have spent their time, and just appreciated the general grandeur of the old and magnificent place. After enjoying the palace, we walked down to the ocean front and took in the gorgeous view of one of many inlets of the Baltic Sea, where we could just make out the Gröna Lund Amusement park across the water and see several swans swimming next to the dock. It was a magical ending to a wondrous adventure, one of many I hope to have during the rest of my time in Stockholm!

Front of the Royal Palace
Swans and Ships

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