Programme

The Asian Conference on Psychology & the Behavioral Sciences 2017 (ACP2017) is an interdisciplinary conference held alongside The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2017 (ACERP2017). Keynote, Featured and Spotlight Speakers will provide a variety of perspectives from different academic and professional backgrounds. Registration for either conference will allow participants to attend sessions in both.

This page provides details of presentations and other programming. For more information about presenters, please visit the Speakers page.


  • Beyond Cuteness: An Emerging Field of the Psychology of “Kawaii”
    Beyond Cuteness: An Emerging Field of the Psychology of “Kawaii”
    Keynote Presentation: Dr Hiroshi Nittono
  • A Poverty of Hope: Towards a Psychology of Humanitarian Success
    A Poverty of Hope: Towards a Psychology of Humanitarian Success
    Featured Presentation: Professor Ronald Mellado Miller
  • Free Speech and Hate Speech – History, Story, Narrative
    Free Speech and Hate Speech – History, Story, Narrative
    Plenary Panel: Professor Frank S. Ravitch, Professor Colin Jones, Professor Koji Higashikawa & Shiki Tomimasu
  • Battles of Ideas: Identity and Alienation
    Battles of Ideas: Identity and Alienation
    Plenary Panel: Dr Brian Victoria & Professor Dexter Da Silva
  • Adolescent Depression and Identity Development
    Adolescent Depression and Identity Development
    Featured Presentation: Dr Keizo Nagao
  • Freedom’s Edge: Balancing Religious Freedom and Equal Access to Facilities and Services for Transexuals
    Freedom’s Edge: Balancing Religious Freedom and Equal Access to Facilities and Services for Transexuals
    Featured Presentation: Professor Frank S. Ravitch
  • Military Conscription, Slavery and the Modern State
    Military Conscription, Slavery and the Modern State
    Featured Presentation: Dr Brian Victoria
  • Perspectives on Natural Religion
    Perspectives on Natural Religion
    Featured Panel: Professor T. Brian Mooney, Professor Wayne Cristaudo, Professor John N. Williams & Professor Dixon Wong Heung Wah
  • Buddhism and Non-Discrimination: The Rise of Black Buddhist Feminism
    Buddhism and Non-Discrimination: The Rise of Black Buddhist Feminism
    Spotlight Presentation: Dr Sokthan Yeng
  • Identity Constructs as Drivers of Persecution and Obstacles to Justice
    Identity Constructs as Drivers of Persecution and Obstacles to Justice
    Spotlight Presentation: Mr David Matas, Author & Human Rights Lawyer
  • Life Changes, Identity Loss and Psychological Problems
    Life Changes, Identity Loss and Psychological Problems
    IAAB Presentation: Dr Monty Satiadarma
Beyond Cuteness: An Emerging Field of the Psychology of “Kawaii”
Keynote Presentation: Dr Hiroshi Nittono

“Kawaii” is one of the most popular words in contemporary Japan. It is often translated as “cute” in English, but the nuances and connotations of the two words seem to be different. The psychology of cuteness has its roots in Konrad Lorenz’s (1943) concept of Kindchenschema (baby schema), which assumes that specific physical features – such as a round head and big eyes – serve as key stimuli that instinctively trigger perceptions of cuteness and protective behaviour in humans. However, after over 70 years of research, we are beginning to see that the perception and feeling of cuteness are not directly related to nurturance. It goes beyond a response to infantile stimuli and is better conceptualized as a more general, positive emotion related to sociality and approach motivation. In this talk, I will introduce the current status of kawaii/cuteness research in the cognitive and behavioural sciences and discuss the importance of this emotion in a mature society of symbiosis. In particular, I would like to discuss which aspects of kawaii are unique to Japanese culture and which aspects seem to be universal to all humans.

Read presenter biographies on the Speakers page.

A Poverty of Hope: Towards a Psychology of Humanitarian Success
Featured Presentation: Professor Ronald Mellado Miller

In today’s world, we find that efforts to better the world accomplish much, but lacking an understanding of psychology and its potential implementations, leave the greater good yet undone. For example, there are many efforts to build schools around the world, but by not supplying committed teachers, the building is only a shell for what it could have been. Are the students being given the hope that they will be able to change at least their world and rise to intellectual, social, and economic heights? Or is the psychology of hope missing and they feel that while many will be benefited, it will not be for them to succeed? Other examples, are curing malaria, but leaving people in both psychological and economic poverty. They will live longer, true, but in poverty, with poor quality of life. While NGOs receive funds, they often do not do the good they aim for because they give things, but do not impart or change the self. A number of studies now show that hope is a powerful predictor of future success. A classic example is that of college students, who are often young, poor, some married with families, and how, though financially and healthwise they are the same, they differ from people who live in inner-city projects. In the students, there is the hope that their current work and poverty will end and they will join the middle class. Those in projects, with similar levels of poverty, lack hope for a better future which leads to greater crime, depression, and drug abuse. This talk concerns the research that shows how programs and implementations can meet both physical and psychological needs, how taking into account psychology can enhance humanitarian success and achieve far more than simply extending life. Psychology, so implemented, can make life worth living.

Read presenter biographies on the Speakers page.

Free Speech and Hate Speech – History, Story, Narrative
Plenary Panel: Professor Frank S. Ravitch, Professor Colin Jones, Professor Koji Higashikawa & Shiki Tomimasu

Panel Chair: Professor Frank S. Ravitch
Panellists: Professor Colin Jones, Professor Koji Higashikawa & Mr Shiki Tomimasu

This interdisciplinary plenary panel will look at some of the important ethical issues surrounding issues of free speech and hate speech, and how they relate to both contemporary and historical stories and narratives. Questions of censorship, power, control and oppression will be raised and include comparative legal, ethical, religious and political discussions relating to legislation against hate speech and the protection of freedoms, including, among others, the examples of Japan’s recent Hate Speech legislation and the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong.

Read presenter biographies on the Speakers page.

Battles of Ideas: Identity and Alienation
Plenary Panel: Dr Brian Victoria & Professor Dexter Da Silva

Panel Chair: Dr Brian Victoria
Panellists: Professor Dexter Da Silva

For much of the previous quarter of a century, Europe and North America has seen a liberal politics in the ascendent, moving towards full legal equality of the LGBT community, and an increased international engagement in cooperative unions. But the past few years have seen a remarkable comeback of a conservative and religious right within these countries, leading to huge debates over such fundamental questions as what it means to be a human, a citizen, or even an assigned gender.

Militancy or activism fighting power structures has been harnessed in the form of populist movements defining themselves against the “Establishment”, and this Establishment is no longer able to exercise the same level of control through traditional instruments of power, including previous near monopolies on communication. Populist movements now, as in the past, have used various forms of scapegoating to harness and direct popular sentiment and anger towards easy solutions. Regionalism, nationalism, and divisions of faiths and ethnic groups has lead to huge divisions and conflict in this globalised world.

Historian and religious studies scholar, Brian Victoria, and Educational psychologist, Dexter Da Silva, speaking from within their own fields, will lead this interdisciplinary panel that will look at questions of identity in the context of a divided and divisive global system, to included questions related to how humans are capable of both cooperation and dissent, and how they can be societally alienated, and come to define their identities against, as opposed to with, other members of the human race, inviting input from the diverse disciplinary backgrounds represented at the conference.

Read presenter biographies on the Speakers page.

Adolescent Depression and Identity Development
Featured Presentation: Dr Keizo Nagao

When depression develops during adolescence, it hinders thinking from developing. Even when thinking is developed, a positive outcome can’t be brought because the individual tends to think negatively. When they want to do something, they can’t act as they intend to. Therefore, they lose confidence. They become too sensitive in interpersonal relationships and feel uncomfortable going out in a crowd. Then, they lose confidence in their interpersonal relationships. Sometimes they become more dependent ("amae"). They start to present regressive behaviour and consequently their self-esteem is lowered. This leads to a crisis in identity formation. In order to cope with this problem, they need to understand the nature of depression. There are several points to this. Firstly, because depression is an illness, they need to keep a distance from themselves. That is, they need to objectify the depression. They should think of it as nothing to do with their own personality. This is quite difficult to do, though. The less they have self-affinity, the better they become. It is estimated that the prevalence of depression is 6‐8% in adolescents. Hence isn’t it required that such a high-frequency disease should be taught in educational institutions from the perspectives of self-esteem and suicide prevention?

Read presenter biographies on the Speakers page.

Freedom’s Edge: Balancing Religious Freedom and Equal Access to Facilities and Services for Transexuals
Featured Presentation: Professor Frank S. Ravitch

On the heels of the continuing culture wars in the United States and elsewhere over balancing religious freedom and sexual freedom for members of the LGBT community in the context of marriage equality, a newer issue has arisen. Are transexuals able to be recognized by their gender identity even if it differs from the gender on their birth certificate? In many US states this is not a problem and people can access facilities based on the gender with which they identify. In other states, however, this has become a battleground issue. In many states these battles are stoked and supported by certain religious organizations. In other states which protect equal access based on gender identity, religious entities have not been exempted from these new laws, even when failure to exempt could lead to serious violations of religious freedom. Thus, in some cases religious organizations have been pushing for laws that create discrimination and inequality for transexuals. In others, forces on the other side are creating serious religious conflicts by failing to exempt religious entities from equal access laws. It is a new chapter in the culture wars. I argued in the well-received book, Freedom’s Edge: Religious Freedom, Sexual Freedom, and the Future of America (Cambridge University Press 2016), that we should protect both religious freedom and sexual freedom on issues such as same-sex marriage. In this talk I will likewise argue for protecting interests on both sides.

Read presenter biographies on the Speakers page.

Military Conscription, Slavery and the Modern State
Featured Presentation: Dr Brian Victoria

Although illegal “human trafficking” still exists, there are no modern, internationally recognised states that either condone or allow slavery, i.e., allow human beings to purchase, own, sell or use other human beings as they see fit. Thus, traditional slavery can safely be called a relic of the past. Or can it? That is to say, does a system still exist in which human beings are forced, on pain of death, to follow the orders of other human beings (their ‘superiors’), even to the point of killing, or being killed by, still other human beings with whom they are unacquainted? The answer is, of course, yes, such a system presently exists (or has a legal basis to exist) in many countries of the world. The name of this system is “military conscription.” This presentation explores the history and present-day structure of military conscription in comparison with traditional slavery, seeking to discover what, if anything, is the difference between them.

(Image courtesy of Boston Public Library).

Read presenter biographies on the Speakers page.

Perspectives on Natural Religion
Featured Panel: Professor T. Brian Mooney, Professor Wayne Cristaudo, Professor John N. Williams & Professor Dixon Wong Heung Wah

Panel Chair: Professor T. Brian Mooney
Featured Panellists: Professor Wayne Cristaudo, Professor John N. Williams, Professor Dixon Wong Heung Wah & Professor T. Brian Mooney


The “Natural” in Natural Religion and What is Mythic about Modern Faith

Professor Wayne Cristaudo

This paper draws upon the insights of Giambattista Vico, J. G. Hamann and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy amongst others. It explores the relationship that gods and spirits play in orientation in humanity’s earliest social formations. It emphasises a number of “natural” insights into “world-participation” that are driven out by metaphysics (especially in its modern incarnation) with its reconstitution and “disenchantment” of the “natural”. It also makes the argument that Judaism and Christianity as world-making powers incorporate, and are thus continuous in important ways with, some fundamental features of “natural” religion. It concludes by contrasting archaic and modern faith in light of the secularised horizon of humans as natural beings.


Proving the Non-existence of God

Professor John N. Williams

I consider three arguments for the non-existence of God that appeal to the nature of God rather than to contingent features of the world. I call the first of these the Humean argument from non-necessity, roughly that since no thing exists necessarily, and if God exists then he exists necessarily, God necessarily does not exist. The second is the argument from omnipotence, roughly that any omnipotent being has the power to do anything logically possible, including the power to relinquish her omnipotence, but since God is necessarily eternal, she lacks that logically possible power and so cannot exist as an omnipotent being. The third is the argument from the “ungodly proposition”, (UG) inspired by G. E. Moore’s example of believing both that it is raining and that I do not believe that it is raining. (UG) is (UG) I do not believe this proposition UG enables a proof that there can be no being that is both omniscient and rational in all her beliefs. I show that the soundness of the Humean argument is objectionable and that the argument from omnipotence can be derailed via a principled restriction on God’s omnipotence plus a distinction between the divine office of God and the individual that occupies it. But I also show that there is no escape from the argument from the ungodly proposition. In particular, that argument is undamaged by appeals to self-reference.


Reflections on Commonalities in Natural Religions

Professor T. Brian Mooney

This paper examines some key commonalities in the theory and practice of Natural Religion.


Ancestor Worship, Gift and Kinship are Magic in Chinese Culture

Professor Dixon Wong Heung Wah

This paper attempts to challenge the assumed idea of the separation among the categories of religion, kinship and gift-giving through a symbolic analysis of the native concepts of Chinese kinship: fang/Jia-zu, ch’i, and tsung. fang emphasises a son’s conjugal status, designating the son or the son and his wife as a unit or all his male descendants and their wives as a kin set (Chen 1986: 55-6). Metaphorically, fang thus takes on the meaning of the genealogical status of a son as a conjugal unit in relation to his father. Jia-zu is a blend of jia and zu. Jia refers to a co-resident, commensal group, whereas zu is a genealogical notion referring to the sets of agnates and their wives regardless of their functional aspects (Chen, 1986: 64). Taken together jia-zu refers to the genealogical status of father in relation to son. Ch’i refers to the vital essence of human life which flows from father to son and to all of his male descents (Shiga, 1978, p. 123). Tsung means a genius of people referring to the membership of jia-zu (Chun, 1985). By delineating the meaningful relationship among these three native concepts about kinship, this paper is going to argue that the cultural logic that underlines these concepts is parallel to that of ancestor worship. In the second part of this paper, I shall analyse the idea of the gift and gift-giving behaviour in the Chinese societies of mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for a more ambitious argument: kinship, ancestor worship and gift-giving can be seen as different modes of magic in Chinese societies, which is also to say that kinship, ancestor worship and gift-giving are on the same ontological plane, all of which can be understood as magic in Chinese culture. The final part will spell out the implications of this argument for the study of natural religions.

Read presenter biographies on the Speakers page.

Buddhism and Non-Discrimination: The Rise of Black Buddhist Feminism
Spotlight Presentation: Dr Sokthan Yeng

Known for their analysis on compound identities, Black Feminists reveal how multiple layers of power act through discourses of gender, sexuality, race, etc. Their engagement with Buddhism, therefore, has the potential to move Buddhist feminism beyond issues of sex and gender. To this end, I will explore why Buddhism is attractive to some in the black community. I further suggest that Buddhism’s appeal to the black community can help to expose Buddhist communities’ allegiances with and point to a possible path of transforming Buddhism in resistance to dominant society. By surveying the landscape of black Buddhist practitioners, I hope to gain insight into the possibility of reconciling the Buddhist ideal of non-discrimination with the constitution of its Western membership (largely from white middle-class backgrounds). I look, in particular, to critiques made by bell hooks to examine possible ways for political change through Buddhism. Although bell hooks identifies as Buddhist, she believes that belonging to a Buddhist community does not necessarily guarantee a break with narratives of domination. She has publicly admonished the lack of diversity within Buddhist leadership and communities. Yet hooks believes that Buddhism can challenge the focus on material gain and help combat feelings of anger that arise from dealing with injustices. Of all the Western feminists who engage with Buddhism, she has arguably done the most to shine a light on feelings of anger and sought to transform anger into loving-kindness via Buddhist mindfulness.

Read presenter biographies on the Speakers page.

Identity Constructs as Drivers of Persecution and Obstacles to Justice
Spotlight Presentation: Mr David Matas, Author & Human Rights Lawyer

Identity can be viewed both objectively and subjectively. Subjectively, identity can be self-constructed or constructed by others.

Persecution often flows from divergences in identity constructs. When that happens, what constraints do those conflicting perspectives pose for legal remedies? In this context, where can justice be found?

This paper will address these questions through a case study – the persecution of prisoners of conscience in China and, in particular, practitioners of the spiritually based set of exercises Falun Gong. The search for justice will focus on the evidence of killing of Falun Gong for their organs.

Bringing justice to the Falun Gong community and bringing to justice the persecutors of Falun Gong becomes impossible in China, not only because perpetrators seek immunity, but also because the pervasive view of the identity of Falun Gong the Communist Party brings to China immobilises justice. The search for justice for the victimisation of Falun Gong then falls to outsiders.

Yet, even for those outside China, the search for justice is constrained by the views outsiders have of what the Falun Gong community is and who Falun Gong practitioners are. The purpose of the paper will be to consider these identity constraints to justice in the context of efforts to address the evidence of the killing of Falun Gong for their organs, and suggest ways in which the constraints could be overcome.

This presentation will follow a screening of the documentary film Hard To Believe.

Read presenter biographies on the Speakers page.

Life Changes, Identity Loss and Psychological Problems
IAAB Presentation: Dr Monty Satiadarma

Life changes may not merely challenge people with transitional life issues, but also with changing identities. Identity issues correlate with various life aspects. Erik Erickson (1902-1994) explained that during normative development the influence of experimentation and exploration in personality and vocational roles became the important aspects in constructing individual identities (Santrock, 2007). Smart (2007) noted how the mind and brain of the individuals materialize into behavior and influence the identities of the individuals. Problems of losing identities start when people experience dramatic life changes such as losing their social relationships (for example losing family members or their loved ones), their jobs or employment, and in general when they lose their sense of self, of self-worth (Alger, 2014). This presentation will discuss on issues of how people may lose their identities due to living conditions and various psychological problems they need to be aware of, besides it will discuss possible solution to deal with such condition.

Read presenter biographies on the Speakers page.