This summer I had the opportunity of conducting research in social cognition and moral evaluation with Dr. Adrianna C. Jenkins in the Department of Psychology. One of our main research goals was that I learn what research in psychology is like and develop the appropriate skills to navigate the field. Further, our other main goal was to investigate the proportion dominance effect in moral evaluation. The proportion dominance effect is a phenomenon where, although the absolute number of people at risk may be the same in two options, the size of the reference group greatly influences the decision people make. It has been observed primarily in people’s decisions about what they would do themselves, but we wanted to see whether this effect extends towards people’s evaluations of other peoples’ actions.
Conducting research over the summer was no easy task. I had minimal experience in research participation, but my mentor ensured that my time in the lab was productive, enriching, and valuable. While in the lab, I honed skills I already had while learning new ones. For instance, I learned how to invent stimuli for studies, and then program surveys to send out and acquire data. This proved to be much more challenging and time consuming than I had previously thought, with stimulus development taking place for about half of the summer. I then learned how to conduct data analysis and code with a research programming software known as R. Equally as important, I spent some time reviewing literature and attending reading groups where we discussed research articles from neuroscience to social cognition and more. Thus, I learned an assortment of research skills within a short amount of time.
As an undergraduate psychology major, there is still much in the field that I do not know about. However, social cognition and moral psychology are topics that interest me and being able to conduct research where both of these topics intersect was gratifying. Studying topics in an academic setting is one thing, but actually experiencing them while researching them is unlike any other. I am grateful that I was able to have an opportunity like this be a part of my educational experience and prepare me with the skills needed to pursue a career in psychology. I learned and grew each step of the research process and although it may have been difficult, it was incredibly rewarding.