Psych experiments help for the future

Psych experiments help for the future

Pitt-Johnstown student Victoria Snyder participates in a photograph experiment conducted by student Bryanna Hetrick.

Kaitlin Greenockle, Copy Editor

Psychology experiments are common to Pitt-Johnstown psychology majors, and the studies influence their future more than one might expect.

UPJ graduate and current University of Toledo graduate student Monica Rohrabaugh conducted UPJ research that lead her to specialize in forensic developmental psychology.

At UPJ, she conducted research that evaluated the accuracy of ear-witness identification

As a UPJ undergraduate, Rohrabaugh conducted an experiment on identifying a speaker without seeing the speaker. After multiple experiments on the topic, she found a correlation of genders being able to identify their gender’s voice more accurately.

“In addition to enhancing your qualifications for graduate school admission, getting involved in research will help you figure out which career path you want to take in the future,” Rohrabaugh said.

She said, while at UPJ, she discovered what she was interested in focusing on.

“I realized that I wanted to continue to pursue research as part of my career largely because of my research involvement with (professor) Mullennix and (professor) Stern,” she said.

UPJ psychology experiments helped further her academic career and made her realize what she wanted to do career wise, she said.

“The ear-witness experiments sparked my interest in memory and its implications in the legal setting. I decided to continue to pursue this interest in graduate school,” Rohrabaugh said.

She also was able to present her ear-witness experiment at the Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science, the Annual Meeting of the Eastern Psychology Association and UPJ SPACE. She also presented at the Annual Laurel Highlands undergraduate Psychology Conference.

“Presenting research at professional psychology conferences as an undergraduate was an amazing experience,” she said.

Psychology associate professor Sharon Bertsch said almost all advanced educational institutions expect students to have research experience. It is important that students know how the process works and how to present research at conferences, she said.

“Once they learn how to, then they can just hit the ground running in grad school or wherever they choose to go next,” Bertsch said.

It not only helps the student, but it also helps the faculty member who is overseeing the experiment because it might go along with their research as well, Bertsch said.

Bertsch explained that it is critical that students who want to perform experiments are able to.

“I don’t think that we have ever turned a student away,” Bertsch said.

In the end it really lets the students and faculty get to know each other better, which helps when it comes time for the faculty to write letters of recommendations for their students, Bertsch said.

Senior psychology major Chelsa Fallier is conducting an experiment this semester pertaining to photographs.

She has psychology students rate photographs on attractiveness. Some are asked to look at a photo briefly and rate it, while others are given more time.

The process usually takes about 20-40 minutes, but time is not limited to each student, Fallier said. She also explained that, in March, they get to go to Boston for the Eastern Psychological Association conference.

“At the conference, we get to submit an abstract of our experiment and have a poster session so that people can ask questions,” Fallier said.

Natural science division chair and psychology professor Steven Stern said that every student who is in Introduction to Psychology has the opportunity to participate as subjects in experiments. Every psychology student has an option to either participate in an experiment or to choose an alternative assignment to get credit.

Stern said it is important because, depending on each professor, the experiment or alternative assignment is a certain percentage of the student’s grade.

He said it is a great learning experience for students and is beneficial for faculty. Professors continue to contribute articles in research journals with their findings.

“Faculty being highly active in their field benefits the students,” Stern said.

He also said that when it comes to students’ individual research, it depends on whether students choose their own topic or expand on the professor’s research.