This summer I had the opportunity to work in the Computational Perception and Cognition Lab under the mentorship of Dr. Alan Stocker and alongside Dr. Cheng Qiu. Dr. Qiu and I developed a psychophysical experiment to examine how the context of two dot stimuli can systematically bias their recall. Our expectation was that dots categorized as belonging to the same cluster would be recalled as closer together, while dots identified as belonging to two separate clusters would be placed further apart during recall. This project was largely exploratory, intended to provide a framework and dataset for future experiments.
Dr. Qiu and I collaborated and worked in parallel on various parts of the experimental design process. We first researched and discussed our project idea before settling on the details of our experiment. Then, while Dr. Qiu worked on generating our stimuli, I wrote the code for the main component of the experiment. Once the experiment was ready to launch, I recruited participants and ran the sessions, and Dr. Qiu developed our data analysis approach.
One of the many things I learned through this experience was how to code in MATLAB. While I had previous experience with other programming languages, this was my first time working with MATLAB, and I needed to frequently consult tutorials and documentation in order to round-out my understanding of the language. Doing so emphasized to me that research often involves knowledge of a seemingly distinct field, just as this psychological research relied heavily on computer science for implementation and analysis. As a candidate for a B.A. in Cognitive Science, I appreciate this interdisciplinary approach to behavioral science, and am thankful for the equally interdisciplinary education I have received at Penn that prepared me for this experience. This was also my first time working in a research lab, and thus the experience provided me with a glimpse into the expectations and daily life of a possible career path.