November 29, 2008
My neuroscience-based class has been pretty interesting. We’ve looked at how and why people act in the ways that they do. To give an example, picture a glass placed upside-down on a table. If you were instructed to turn it over, how would you grab the glass? You would likely place your hand in an initially awkward hand position (with your thumb touching the table) so that once the glass was turned rightside-up, your hand would be in a comfortable position and ready to complete another task.
We’ve looked at the mechanics of music, smiling, walking, and depth perception. We’ve also designed our own experiments in the laboratory portion of the class. My group recently created an experiment to look at how people allocate their attention when there are distracting objects present. Essentially, we took pictures of people around campus with strange items in the picture, like a plastic duck, a sombrero, or a giant clown decoration. Setting up the study was probably the most fun part. It involved running around campus with strange objects and taking pictures for a few hours on a Sunday. People looked out of their dorms to see us wearing strange hats, carrying mannequins, and singing. I’ve posted a few pictures of the experience.
It's taken extra time and work to set up experiments in the lab and test 40 participants from introductory Psychology courses, but it's been fun to get to know other people in my major. Because it's a 300-level class, the students taking it are mostly seniors, with a handful of juniors. I know a lot of the same people from my thesis group and from taking classes for the last four years, so it's a lot more close-knit than some of the lower-level classes. It's been fun getting to know the other students who have the same academic interests and are looking at some of the same career paths. We're all in the same boat, so it's fun to spend time with a lot of my like-minded peers.