Practical work aids SIUE psychology students

EDWARDSVILLE – After spending over a year taking courses mostly online or through a hybrid format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, five undergraduate psychology students at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville haven’t forgotten how fortunate they have been to meet in person this semester. The team of research assistants engages in applied learning with the support of Jason Finley, PhD, assistant professor of psychology.

“It has been so wonderful for us to work together in person in the lab,” said Finley. “Laboratory meetings are the melting pot of scientific research, where new ideas arise from sprawling intellectual conversations and hands-on exploration of past literature and new data. “


Seniors Alyssa Cerna, Claire Ellis, Alexandra Hardy, Sarah McCoy and Patricia Roberts worked with Finley this semester on a variety of research topics ranging from memory to cultural biases.

One project, The Forgetting Curve, is a collaboration with Californian artist Deborah Aschheim, who has researched her own memory for 10 years. Ellis and Hardy continue Finley’s earlier work on this project by encoding Aschheim’s qualitative data to create quantitative data that will allow them to perform statistical analyzes and identify patterns in his memory.

“We’re looking at what we remember, but what we want to find by going through all the data is what we remember poorly and whether there is a relationship between those errors in our memory,” Ellis said.

In the Photo Importance study, Roberts and Finley asked study participants to select only one year in their life in which they would choose to keep photos. The pandemic had an unexpected impact on the results of this study.

“There were a few participants who mentioned that they chose a specific year because it was before the pandemic,” said Roberts. “Although the results are not clear at the moment, it could have an interesting and unexpected impact. “

McCoy had the opportunity to work with Finley on a project from start to finish this semester. The Cultural Bias in Security Questions project investigated whether the security questions posed by online identity verification systems are biased towards white and heterosexual individuals with heteronormative lives.

“This research experience has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my academic career,” said McCoy. “I was involved in a research project from start to finish, which gave me an authentic, behind-the-scenes look at how real psychological research is conducted (sometimes through trials and tribulations). Dr Finley instilled in me a strong curiosity and a passion for learning about the human mind.

Finley and his research assistants didn’t take for granted how much time they can spend around the lab table this semester discussing their research plans.

“We are blessed to be able to meet in person in our lab,” said Hardy. “We had so many great conversations about our projects that could have been harder to have on Zoom.”

While Finley and his students are fully immunized and comfortable attending psychology lab meetings, much of their research is still conducted without in-person contact. This challenge makes their lab discussions even more important, as they use different methods of data collection.

“Joining the research lab this semester gave me a better understanding of what the research experience is all about. It’s tough and long, but very rewarding, ”said Cerna. “As distressing as the pandemic has been, it at least prompted us to find more creative ways to conduct our research. Of course, in-person research is always great, but now we can use our resources, like technology, to create great studies that are showing promising results.

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