Like most of our fellow research assistants on the "Eye-Tracking for Alcohol Packaging Appeal" research team, we weren't quite sure what to expect in regards to our daily tasks and weekly objectives. Over the duration of the project, our team would meet on a weekly basis to discuss current challenges we were facing and delegate duties among ourselves, which could change or add on to the previous weeks' tasks depending on the project's current needs. Under the direction of our primary investigator, Dr. Matthew Rossheim, and Dr. Matthew Peterson we proceeded in two phases, the first phase was to prepare material for our experiment and recruit participants to undergo our study, and the second phase was collecting data via running test participants through eye-tracking technology.
Throughout the month of July, most of our time was devoted to running test participants. Each participant required two research participants to oversee the experiment and handle any troubleshooting with the eye-tracking software. Upon arrival to our eye-tracking lab participants were greeted and went over their informed consent forms with the research assistants, before being tested by us for normal vision and color blindness. We were responsible for overseeing the experiment as participants ran through a programmed slideshow of images the team had developed, while an infrared eye tracking sensor monitored the movement of the participants' pupils, recording the location and time spent looking at objects in each image. All participant data was de-identified by us so that the participants remained anonymous with a three-digit code in addition to their age and gender were the only identifiers recorded.
One thing we learned this summer was the crucial importance of voluntary participation in research efforts involving human subjects, and the resilience required to continue working diligently when research plans don’t always go as planned. Our team faced considerable challenges recruiting youth participants this summer and had to constantly revise our methods and procedures in order to collect a large enough data sample. Meeting our desired number of participants was extremely important to us as the results of our research would be used by our primary investigator to improve youth public health and safety through regulatory implications.