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Students Develop Psychological Experiment
The first thing that Dan Teague ’15 and Julianne Stasiowski ’15 will tell you about their Experimental Psychology course is that it’s difficult, demanding, and rigorous. The next thing they will tell you is that it’s rewarding and totally worth it.
Taught by Jennifer Rivers, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, the class involves developing a potential topic for research. Dan and Julianne are now in an independent study with Dr. Rivers where they will conduct the actual experiment on an approved topic from their Experimental Psychology course.
“In Experimental Psychology, we had to do a lit review, do the research, come up with our method and go through the review proposal. Now we get to actually collect the data and do the experiment,” said Julianne, a psychology and social work major from Chicopee.
Dr. Rivers would like Julianne and Dan to present their research at the New England Psychological Association next fall so she brought them to the Eastern Psychological Association conference in March. The event featured lectures from professors at Harvard and Yale as well as other students presenting their research.
“Seeing the poster presentations gave us an idea of where we have to be so we’re ready to present in the fall,” said Dan ‘15, a psychology and social work major.
“One of the speakers was talking about a lot of the problems he’s seeing in published experiments now is that they’re not using adequate control groups,” Julianne said. “In my social work research class we’re doing a mock proposal so I’m keeping that in mind as we develop our research methods.”
Not only did the conference give them the inspiration to present their own research in the future, it opened the door to career options.
“Before I went to the conference I was more geared towards social work. I never thought that there were different kinds of field work that you can do, being behind the scenes and doing experiments,” Dan said.
As a part of the independent study, Dan and Julianne need to develop their own psychological experiment. They don’t want to give much away but said the experiment will be about how willingness to donate to charitable organizations can be affected by factors like the wording of the request, and how the person is feeling at the time.
“There was one study where people who picked up a hot item were more likely to feel warm and open towards others. If they picked up a cold item, they were more likely to feel sheltered and closed off. It was interesting to hear how people’s physical perceptions can trigger emotional responses,” Dan said.
While they are both a year away from graduation, Dan and Julianne both think a master’s in social work is in their future.