Summer Activities

This semester, we have seven students working in the Peer Lab on a variety of projects. Here’s what they have been up to this summer.

Annalee Wilson

I am a senior psychology major and I am excited for my first semester as a member of the Peer Lab! Over the summer I worked as a full time research assistant at Boston University’s Developing Minds Lab. The lab studies infants and children up to the age of 10 years and focuses on object and numeric memory as well as social cognition. One of the studies I was able to conduct was a spin off of the marshmallow test, looking at the impact of children’s prosocial tendencies on their ability to delay gratification. I am excited to continue work in the area of child development with the Peer Lab this year. I hope to learn new research skills and become more familiar with the research in this field. Most of all, I am looking forward to being able to interact with the children and their families.

Seung Hyo Ki

I am a junior, majoring in psychology. This summer was one of the craziest times of my life, because I decided to change my intended career due to the internship that I got to work at for the whole summer. Since I thought I wanted to teach middle school students, I had a great opportunity to teach middle school students math and other fun activities for SML Good Neighbors Middle School Academy in Virginia. The internship gave me a chance to deal with children’s problems with behavior and thoughts. I look forward to learning and using the methods and results of studies later as I study to become a child psychiatrist.

Leticia Maganga

I spent the first three weeks of the summer vacation in Berlin for the May Term on Multiculturalism and Diversity. It was an enjoyable experience that kick-started an eventful summer. After the May Term, I began my four-week internship in the Psychiatry and Mental Health Department at the Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I was able to work with clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists and social workers. It was a gratifying experience as it enabled me to fully appreciate the need for a variety of mental health professionals to assess and diagnose a patient’s problem accurately. It has also cemented my focus on Clinical Psychology as it is such a fascinating field. The remaining month of the summer holiday I spent traveling all over Tanzania visiting family and friends! I am excited for the Peer Lab this semester as I get to work on new projects like working with the Eye Tracker and being a part of the Birth to Five team!

Lara Khalifeh

I spent the first half of my summer in Peru volunteering with the Foundation of Medical Relief for Children and hiking! It was all part of an Earlham May term. The second half of my summer was in Lebanon, my home country. I had an internship with a child psychologist using applied behavior analytic research to teach emotion expression in autistic children. I also helped with data collection for an NGO that aims to build houses out of recycled plastic for Syrian refugees around the world. Other than that, I just enjoyed the beach and being around my family and friends. Coming back to Earlham, I am really excited to work in the Peer Lab for my 4th and last year! I’m looking forward to further improving my research skills as I plan to take a year off working as a researcher before I apply for graduate school.

Ro Vieira

I am a Senior Psychology Major (Spanish Minor), and I cannot wait to start another semester here at Earlham with an opportunity to collaborate with Rachael such as this! After spending the Spring semester in Spain, I went home to the Azores islands in Portugal to spend three months interning at a youth hostel for tourists. I wanted to interact as many nationalities as possible, and see what different types of people chose to stay over at a youth hostel rather than a regular hotel. I also took my driver’s license and got to drive around my island, and went to Paris in July to see Norah Jones perform live! I am eager to start running studies and learning a bit more about behavioral psychology, as I might want to pursue Clinical Psychology in the future!

Ethan Perkins

I am a sophomore Psychology major, currently working on my first research project with Rachael. I spent the first half of my summer reconnecting with friends and family, while also trying (and failing) to teach myself French. While I may not have learned too much of the language, it helped to rekindle my interest in francophone culture and made me want to learn the language even more. During the second half of my summer, I had the opportunity to visit a close friend in New York. After this wonderful experience, I visited northern France with my family. This allowed me to get a glimpse of the similarities and differences between people in urban and rural France and urban America, which gave me a greater appreciation for both cultures. I look forward to working with Rachael and the team, developing myself as a researcher, and learning more about what interests me within the field of Psychology.

Montana Ross

I am a senior psychology major and I’m so happy and grateful to be spending my final semester as a research assistant to Rachael! This summer I spent my time working alongside founder Scherezade Tillet and her sister, co-founder Dr. Salamishah Tillet non-for-profit organization, A Long Walk Home. There I was the Program coordinator assistant and worked hand on with young black girls in the inner city of Chicago’s west side through the use of art therapy and art activism to fight and end gender based violence against women and girls. I also started training for the upcoming 2017-2019 Basketball season as an Indiana Pacemate! To add to the excitement of working in the Peer lab this semester I’m also choreographing my first ever dance performance, other than sports games!

Conferences

This semester, all six team members presented work at conferences.

Three students presented a poster at the Mid-America Undergraduate Psychology Research Conference (MAUPRC). They discussed our Living Lab exhibit at the Joseph Moore Museum.

Three students presented a poster at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, the major professional conference for child development. They presented results from our studies on praise and fixed/growth mindset.

The students also presented at the inaugural EPIC Expo at Earlham College.

Yunjoo Shin

I attended MAUPRC, and it was an amazing experience to present on the Living Lab and to learn about what other researchers are working on. There were poster presentations, which our team presented at, and there were presentation sessions where people presented longer talks about their research. I especially enjoyed watching our Earlham seniors present, because their topics were very interesting and they were great speakers. We also heard from Dr. Margaret Stevenson, the keynote speaker during lunch. It was very interesting to learn about how male and female holdout jurors use different techniques to explain their stance to the rest of the jury. Overall, it was a bonding experience for all of us who attended, and it gave me more ideas about what sort of research I would like to pursue for my senior research project!

Seung Hyo Ki

I was expecting a typical research conference where students present and answer questions. However, at MAUPRC, I was motivated to see students from all different school present their own interested topics with enthusiasm and skills. Many of presentation and posters gave me new ideas as a person who wants to run a research in the future. Not only participating the conference, but also the process of preparing to present our poster at MAUPRC was a helpful experience for me. My group got together to make an interesting and informative poster about the Living Lab at Earlham. We also had to practice how to present the poster for a certain amount of time. All these things were new, and I got a great chance to learn both from my team and the conference. If I have a chance, it would be great to present my own research later at MAUPRC.

Lara Khalifeh

I got the chance to attend the SCRD (Society for Research in Child Development) conference in Austin, TX. It was an amazing experience. I was extremely nervous at presenting first but it went well, and everyone was impressed with and interested about our poster about the role of praise on mindsets. I also attended 4 paper symposiums about autism, and that was helpful as I plan to work with a developmental psychologist through assisting her with her research on autism this summer. Moreover, Austin was beautiful! I really enjoyed sightseeing and the good food trucks.

Leticia Maganga

On April 8th we had the opportunity to attend the MAUPRC, a conference that helps to showcase undergraduate research in the field of Psychology. I was part of the team that had a poster presentation on the “Living Lab at Earlham College”. It was a wonderful experience as it helped us connect with peers and learn more about their research and experiences. There were also paper presentations which were a joy to listen to especially when the Earlham seniors presented their own senior research. Dr. Stevenson gave her talk over lunch and it was fascinating to hear how differently holdout jurors, depending on whether they were male or female, defend their decisions. It was a fun and educational experience and it makes me more determined to continue being a part of the field of Psychology.

Birth to Five Team

This semester, the Peer Lab is big enough that we need two teams! The Birth to Five team is predominantly responsible for our kindergarten readiness project with Birth to Five. They are also working on eye tracking research. The team consists of two seniors (Karli Oxford-Jordan & Megan Hut) and two juniors (Carly Taylor & Lara Khalifeh).

Megan Hut: I am from the Netherlands. I am a senior and I am double majoring in Psychology and Spanish & Hispanic Studies. This past summer I did an internship with a child psychologist in the Netherlands. I mostly worked with a group of young girls teaching them social skills. It was a great experience where I learned a lot. I also biked the northern route of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, that was quite an adventure! I am hoping to pursue a career either in children’s psychology or sport psychology.

Lara Khalifeh: I’m a junior from Lebanon. I’m majoring in Psychology and minoring in Business. I’ve been part of this Lab since my freshman year, and each year this lab never failed to help me grow. I am interested in research and specifically child-related research, which makes this Lab perfect for me. Over the summer, I had the opportunity work as a full-time research assistant at this Peer Lab for 6 weeks. After that, I went back home to relax and see my family. I zip lined ,hiked, and attended many weddings. I also got the chance to regularly visit the Psychology Department of the Lebanese National Association of the Handicapped, a major treatment facility for autistic children that I volunteered at last summer

Karli Oxford-Jordan: Hi! This is my second year with the Peer Lab, and I’m excited to be back. This Summer, I worked with Dr. Reavis on a full-time schedule for six weeks and continued the research we’ve been conducting. During that time, I attended the International Conference in Infant Studies (ICIS) in New Orleans; there’s an earlier blog post about my experience if you’re interested. After that, I spent some time traveling and visited family in sunny California. Finally, I spent my last month of Summer splitting my time between working at the Early Child Development Lab at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and volunteering at the Infant Cognition Lab run by Reneé Baillargeon. I was lucky enough to get a firsthand look at how a larger lab runs their experiments, negotiates the needs of a large staff, and does “good research.” Finally, I came back a few weeks early for Resident Assistant training and am back for my senior year at Earlham!
I’m so excited to be doing research again with Dr. Reavis because it allows me to work with a professional in the field. With her guidance, I can be sure that I am thinking critically about the research we conduct as well as my own research and the field as a whole. I am also working on developing important skills that will be essential to my personal success in my intended career of being an infant researcher. Plus, we have a large group this year made up of two excellent teams who are excited to learn about the work we do.

Carly Taylor: I am a junior psychology major. I am planning on obtaining my PhD in order to become a clinical psychologist, making research an important skill for my future schooling. Although I am currently undecided about what age group I would like to work with later in life, I am excited to gain experience with children in the Peer Lab. Over the summer, I worked with ResCare Workforce Services for the second year in a row as a case manager for cash recipients in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families government program in Cincinnati. I created case plans for the participants’ activity in the program and assisted them with obtaining the resources they needed to become self-sufficient. I also had the opportunity to exercise horses at an Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy Program just outside of Cincinnati.

Fixed Mindset Team

This semester, the Peer Lab is big enough that we need two teams! The Fixed Mindset team is predominantly responsible for our studies on Fixed Mindset. They are also working on a study about disgust with collaborators from the University of Mississippi. The team consists of one senior (Idara Udo-Inyang) and three sophomores (Seung Hyo Ki, Leticia Maganga, Yunjoo Shin).

Seung Hyo Ki: I am a sophomore at Earlham. During the summer, I did an internship for SML Good Neighbors in Virginia. I was a mentor for elementary school students and spent time with them learning peace, nature, diversity, and more! I look forward to do this research because I can apply the result on praising children when I teach my students in the future.

Leticia Maganga: I’m from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I am an intended Psychology major and Chemistry minor. This summer I went back home. I got to visit family, go hiking and I also did my fair share of sight-seeing! I am excited to do research because I feel like I am a part of something bigger. Findings in research can lead to paradigm shifts in addition to improving people’s quality of life. It is quite an honour to be a part of the process.

Yunjoo Shin: I’m a sophomore Neuroscience major working in the Peer Lab this semester! I am planning on pursuing an MD/MPH degree, and I hope to use that degree to help make advances the field of child health and overall well-being. This summer, I was able to learn about various different aspects of public health through an internship at IUPUI’s Fairbanks School of Public Health and was able to also mentor a group of underserved Latino students through a camp called Your Life Your Story. That is why I’m even more excited to participate in the Peer Lab because I can learn more about and get hands-on experience with child psychology. I hope that someday, with the knowledge I gained from research, that I can help underserved children not just with their physical health but also with their mental and emotional health.

Idara Udo-Inyang: I spent the first six weeks of the summer as a Research Assistant on Earlham College campus. The next few weeks of July and August I spent visiting various family members all over the States. I went from New Hampshire to New York to the Maryland-Washington D.C area. All the delayed flights were worth it to see family. My future career choice is counseling psychology/psychotherapy working specifically with adults.

p-hacker

As I alluded to in my previous post, questionable research practices can be used to maximize the chance of a result being “statistically significant” (where p < .05).

There are a couple of apps that demonstrate how researcher choices (sample size, collecting extra participants, looking at multiple outcomes, etc.) can lead to erroneous conclusions.

Felix Schöbrodt has a nice walk-through of the interactive p-hacker app, which lets you make choices about the initial study: number of participants in the group, whether there really is a difference between the two groups of interest, and number of outcomes (“DVs” or “dependent variables”). The app then generates data based on these specifications, as though you had run your study in a population with these characteristics. (Of course, in the real world, we can’t know for sure these population characteristics, but simulations allow us to understand how our choices, assumptions, and practices give us results that do or do not reflect the “true state of things”.)

Even when there is no real effect in the population (the app effect is set to zero), some of these choices can result in a high probability of obtaining a “statistically significant” result. For example, I ran five “studies,” each time selecting no effect in the real world (set to zero), with 20 participants in each group, and looking at 10 outcomes (DVs). In two of these studies, I obtained 2-3 “marginally” significant results (out of a possible 10 in each study) with p-values of .057 to .089. These would often be interpreted as meaningful in some way.

In the two studies where there were these results, I then did some “p-hacking,” which allowed me to make some additional decisions that affected my interpretations. In Study 1, the removal of an outlier gave me one significant result (p=.025). There were no outliers in Study 2.

In Study 2, I added 5 new participants per group (10 total). Voila! I now had FOUR significant results (ps ranging from .016 to .043).

So, I conducted five “studies,” removed one outlier, and added 10 participants to one study and now I have five “statistically significant” results to talk about. But I want to remind you! THERE IS NO REAL EFFECT. Recall that we determined the “population” from which these data were drawn and there is no real effectIf this were real life instead of a simulation, we might publish the two studies with significant effects and this would become evidence that there really is a difference between the groups.

I want to end by pointing out that most of these issues are not because p-values or traditional statistics are inherently flawed. Rather, researchers make choices that capitalize on chance and then don’t appropriately report or correct for those choices. For example, we could have chosen to look only at two or three outcomes (DVs) in a single study and then used a correction such that we only paid attention to p-values closer to .01. When I ran a single “study” using these specifications, I didn’t have p-values anywhere close to the point where I would conclude there was a difference between groups.

Pre-registering studies (making public your decisions BEFORE you run the data), using corrections for the number of comparisons, and avoiding questionable research practices can help minimize false positives (that is, saying there is a difference when there isn’t one). As consumers of research it’s important to be aware of these issues and interpret differences more cautiously when authors don’t demonstrate that they are taking steps to avoid p-hacking-like practices.

Bayesian Statistics

In research, we use statistics to help us reach conclusions about our observations. Traditionally in psychology, we use something called a p-value to determine whether some effect we are interested in (such as whether children in the Parents as Teachers program are better prepared for kindergarten compared to similar children not in the program.) Much research you read about in the popular press (whether psychological, biomedical, etc.) was tested relying on p-values.

What is a p-value? It’s actually super confusing and most people (including well-educated people who use p-values) don’t understand it! Even those who understand the mathematical and conceptual basis for a p-value have difficulty explaining it in a way that others can understand.

If you want a definition here it is: The p-value tells you the probability of getting a result as extreme as the one you observed, assuming that there is no effect in the real world and if you ran your study a gazillion times. By convention, if that probability is less than 5% (or 1 in 20), then you reject the idea that there is no effect and decide that there must, in fact, be an effect. A p-value does not tell you the probability that you are right or wrong (or the probability that the results occurred by chance). Is that clear? No? You’re not alone.

Furthermore, over-reliance on p-values contributes to all sorts of questionable research practices, some intentional, some unintentional, many somewhere in the middle.

There has been an increasingly loud call by statisticians and statistically-minded psychologists to move away from reliance on p-values. Some have called for something called confidence intervals, which I won’t get into here. Others have called for the use of Bayesian statistics, which is what I’m learning this week!

I’m taking a class at the ICPSR Summer Institute, which offers week-long workshops. I’m taking Introductory Bayesian Statistics with John Kruschke. There are several benefits of Bayesian statistics over more traditional analyses. And after Day 2, I’ve become convinced that it is more intuitive than p-values. However, you have to talk about probabilities a lot, which makes most people’s heads hurt. (There are a lot of Greek letters, making “It’s all Greek to me!” jokes both nearly irresistible and very cringe-worthy.)

All that Greek and expression of probabilities make it seem much more complicated than traditional statistics. (It’s also possible I’ve forgotten how confusing traditional stats were the first time I learned them.) However, the results are more in line with what most people think p-values and confidence intervals are telling them. And it gives more info out of a single analysis.

That said, I’m only 2 days into Bayesian statistics, so I’m faaarrrr from an expert. But I’m really excited about what I’m learning. I’m excited to help my students interpret Bayesian results, if not the math or underlying structure. I’m also excited to try some analyses on my own data.

An important caveat from a non-expert: There’s a lot of responsibility on the part of the researcher be as honest as possible about their data and results. Some of the problems of the p-value are about its interpretation rather than something inherent in p-values. I’m sure there are ways in which uninformed, unscrupulous, and/or highly pressured researchers can mis-specify, misinterpret, or distort Bayesian analyses. I doubt its a cure-all, but I remain excited! (Here is a discussion of how Bayes won’t save us all.)

SRCD submission

We submitted a presentation proposal for the biannual meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), the major national organization for researchers in a variety of disciplines (psychology, sociology, policy, medicine, epidemiology, etc.) who are interested in development. We have submitted a presentation based on our work about praise and fixed/growth mindset. We expect to hear whether the submission was accepted in October. The conference will take place in Austin, TX in April.