Wednesday, April 16, 2014

URSP Student Alexandra Becker Researches Emotionality, Trait Self-control, & Neuroticism Effects on Vigilance Performance

Over the course of spring 2014, I have been working to complete my human factors psychology project under URSP. My project, “Emotionality, Trait Self-control, & Neuroticism Effects on Vigilance Performance”, looks to examine a variety of co-factors that could influence cognitive performance. Vigilance is a specific cognitive activity that demands sustained attention over an expanse of time. Vigilance tasks are often utilized in research to observe sustained attention and responsiveness but a common observed result is task performance decrement. In tandem with this decrement, changes in blood flow velocity into the cerebral cortex (the site of the majority of cognitive activity) can be observed. Transcrainel Doppler sonograph (TCD) has shown success in measuring these blood flow changes and is the method utilized in this experiment. Therefore, this project examines cerebral hemisphere blood flow velocity changes, vigilance task performance, effects of emotionality condition, and trait level personality measures to examine factors to cognition.

Originally, I was interested in examining what factors allow individuals to be more or less successful in stressful situations. As I began my research and spoke to more professors I found myself drawn to neurological methods, in tandem with diverse variable measures. Fall 2013 project work centered round experimental design and defending my proposal before my research committee, which allowed me to examine different possibilities and field standards before beginning project execution.

This endeavor has so far taught me how to form my own research committee, complete extensive literature reviews, examine methodology, collect and analyze data, and persevere through frustration. In the current term, I have been working to collect data by setting up 2-hour, one-one-one experiment sessions through SONA systems. During these sessions, participants complete a few surveys, are hooked up to the TCD (Transcraniel sonograph), and run through a vigilance task. Weekly, I try to complete between 4-8 experiment sessions, and have been doing so since the start of the semester. When I’m not in the lab with participants, I am working to statistically analyze my existing data. I’m often surprised that the statistically difficult in real data, whose numbers are always messier than any classroom examples I’ve encountered.

Long term, I hope to obtain my PhD. in psychology and, although I am not certain I will commit to Human Factors, I know the research skills I am gaining will be valuable no matter the program I enter.