When people hear the word Psychology, most people think of lying on a couch and working through your childhood terrors and while therapy is a respectable aspect of psychology, it is not the only aspect. My area of focus and the other research assistants’ area of focus is experimental psychology. Similarly, when someone hears the word science, you think of people in a white lab coat holding beakers of green liquid, while the beaker on the table is filled with red liquid and smoking. So, this summer we (the lab boffins, a term Dr. V has given us) plan to create a pilot study for experiments that will be ready to go by the fall semester. These experiments will add to the already extensive work of the experimental psychologists who came before us who wanted psychology to be considered as much of a “science” as any other science out there. I hope that in my lifetime, I will see a change come about that when people hear the word science it is not only white lab coats and smoking beakers, but also a psychologist working in a psychology lab that will appear in their minds’ eye.
I am as guilty as anyone who perceives science and scientist as being in a chemistry lab with lab coats, goggles on, and smoking beakers. I grew up in a very small town in Oklahoma and didn’t know psychology could even run experiments. I am extremely grateful for the experience I have been able to gain by working in the lab. The first exposure I got from being in the psychology lab was working on my advanced statistics homework in the summer. I got my first research experience from just being in the lab all the time and over hearing people talk about the experiments they were going to do over the semester. I just volunteered to help in the lab as much as I could, and eventually worked my way into a research assistant position.
To be honest, I would never have thought that this is what I was going to do when I started on the journey of life, but life works that way and we just have to adapt to what life wants to throw at us. I surprised myself when I wrote my Research Creative and Scholarly Activities grant, and I was even more surprised when I was actually approved for it. I am so glad I found myself in the psychology lab two summers ago, because if not I would be lost and stumbling around bumping into people.
The UCO Psychology Lab at the University of Central Oklahoma is the one place every experimental psychology student at UCO wants to be. I remember at the beginning of fall semester last year, I began to realize this was the hub for all of the psychology research on the UCO campus. I began to just hang out in the lab working on homework and trying to get some face time with the lab assistants. I was just trying to get some exposure to the research studies that where happening on campus. I began to volunteer in the lab for anything that the lab assistants might need. My full exposure began once I initiated designing a study for my undergraduate experimental design class.
As I began to work on a project in the lab, I learned more about the ins and outs of the lab. To be completely honest, I was a bit envious of the lab assistants, because I held them in such high regard. The lab assistants were not only running the lab, but receiving compensation for their work all while acquiring some valuable experience and knowledge along the way.
Imagine my surprise when I received an email explaining that the lab had received a STLR grant for the summer, and I was selected as one of the students to work in the lab over the summer. I was so excited. Now, I get to work in the lab and be one of the students that will be at the forefront of psychological research at UCO. At first, I did not know what kind of project I would be working on, but I did not care. I was just excited to officially become a member of the lab staff.
After some discussion with Dr. V, I began working on the phenomenon I would be studying. The project I started was concerned with detecting deception. I began to read many articles about the detection of deception and formulate an in-depth literature review. As I began to piece together my experimental design, program a computer experiment to collect the data I needed, and plan how to work with Direct RT, my minor exposure to the program during my experimental class was central to the experiment's success. I am very excited to now be in the same position as the students that I looked up to.
I am very excited to begin working on my project, but most of all collecting data to be analyzed in novel creative and challenging new ways. My summer research experience will make all the difference for I intend to apply for Human Factors graduate programs.