Friday, April 20, 2018

URSP Student Emily Harris Tests Whether or Not Perceived Humanness of an Agent Correlates with the Social Cues it Gives Off

I did not become interested in research until I switched from a biology to psychology major last spring. However, when I did become interested in doing my own research, I was afforded a great opportunity by my mentor, Dr. Eva Wiese, to run participants for one of the studies in her lab. The research I am currently conducting is entitled, “Social Eye Gaze Congruency on Perceived Humanness of an Agent”. Dr. Wiese and I are testing whether or not perceived humanness of an agent correlates with the social cues it gives off, which in this case is social eye gaze.

On a weekly basis, I spend quite a bit of time prepping for and running participants. To begin, I set out 10 slots (1 hour each) in which participants may come to the lab to do the experiment. These slots are available via the Sona Systems website offered by the University. Upon arrival, participants are fitted for the eye tracker and given a consent form and instructions on their task. If they consent, they are then run through two tasks which take approximately 45 minutes to complete. Once they complete the task, the computer program stores the data for future review.

Running my research study has been an extremely valuable and enjoyable experience for me. By exploring another avenue of my field, it allows me to expand my career choices more and realize a passion for research that I didn’t know I had previously. In addition, I have been able to learn how to run a study properly and ethically, and how to use the equipment for my study. For example, an important component of the experiment is usage of an eye tracker. Again learning to use this equipment is both interesting and valuable for a future in research or other career paths.

Upon realizing my passion for research and enjoying the experiences I have had thus far, I have really come to appreciate the opportunity as it will benefit me greatly in the future. My goal is to go to graduate school, which is extremely research and experience based. Therefore, conducting a study early gives me an idea of what that may be like, but also a head start to learning the ins and outs of research. Also, psychology is an extremely research based field, therefore learning this aspect of my major is vital to my academic career, and quite possibly a contribution to future research. Overall, this has been a tremendous opportunity that I plan to continue on with as I carry out my education.