Photo of professor in tuxedo
Phillip Shaver with crown of laurels he received in honorary doctorate ceremony at Stockholm University.

Pioneering Psychologist Receives Honorary Degree in Glittery Stockholm Ceremony

Phillip Shaver, distinguished professor emeritus of psychology, has received a series of career awards for his research on romantic and other close adult relationships. But none of his award presentations can top what happened Sept. 30 in Stockholm. 

In receiving an honorary doctorate from Stockholm University, he was given a laurel crown, diploma and gold ring — and it all took place during a white-tie ceremony in Stockholm City Hall, where Nobel Prize laureates receive their awards.

Among the other seven honorary doctors was Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Influential research on adult love

In awarding Shaver his honorary degree, a Stockholm University faculty leader described him as a world-renowned researcher in social and personality psychology. “His attachment-theoretical studies of how adults relate to close interpersonal relationships have had a groundbreaking influence on psychologists’ understanding of love and attachment processes in adulthood,” said Gunnel Forsberg, professor of human geography and deputy dean of the social sciences faculty.

Shaver has received career and scientific influence awards from his three main professional organizations: the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the Society of Experimental Social Psychology and the International Association for Relationship Research. He counts among his other honors his meeting with the Dalai Lama in India in 2004.

Before receiving his honorary degree in Sweden, Shaver gave a talk about his work at the invitation of the university’s Department of Psychology. His two-hour presentation, “Secure and Insecure Love: 30 Years of Research on Interpersonal Attachment Processes in Adulthood,” drew an overflow audience.

One stellar evening

Photo of ceremony
A big screen shows Shaver standing during the ceremony in Stockholm City Hall, the same venue where Nobel Prize laureates receive their awards.

Shaver’s wife and UC Davis psychology colleague, Distinguished Professor Gail Goodman, and one of their twin 20-year-old daughters, Lauren, accompanied him on the trip. Jude Cassidy, a psychology professor at the University of Maryland and his co-editor on three successive editions of The Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research and Clinical Applications, flew in from sabbatical studies in the Netherlands for the honorary doctorate ceremony.

“The entire experience was wonderful,” Shaver said. “The award ceremony was an exciting, very glittery celebration, with medieval banners, opera singers, an orchestra and a male choir.”

After the ceremony, the honorees and their guests went upstairs to the Gold Hall, where the Nobel Prizes are awarded each December, for dinner, toasts, speeches by Vargas Llosa and others and dancing.  “I felt like we were in a dream of a previous era (and a higher social class) for one stellar evening,” Shaver said.


Watch a video of the ceremony (Shaver receives his honorary doctorate about 1 hour, 30 minutes into the 2 ½ hour video)    

Catch Shaver’s lecture to Stockholm University's Department of Psychology.

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science

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