Research Requirements for Majors

Undergraduate Research Requirement

All psychology majors are required to complete one semester of empirical research, either by taking a structured Research Experience course (300-level course), rarely offered, or by completing a faculty-supervised independent empirical research project (PSYC 399).

If you are interested in doing a PSYC 399 the application is now online. This application is due before the end of the add period each semester. Requests for a PSYC 399 Independent Study opportunity should be directed to individual professors prior to completing the online application. Please read all the information on this page before proceeding with the application. Please do not submit paper applications.

Here is the link to the application for one-semester SPRING 2018 PSYC 399 and 299 research: The deadline is Jan. 22, 2018.

https://sasupenn.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_4UEdmt6X0hVQ8Wp

  

Here is the link to the Independent Study Progress Report for research that was started in the Fall 2017 semester, and will be completed in the Spring 2018 semester. This is for students currently enrolled in a 2-semester independent study (PSYC 399). You must submit this progress report at the start of the second semester of your PSYC 399. The deadline is Jan. 22, 2018.

https://sasupenn.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9FWtYoR2wTs28f3

 

The application links above contain a PDF of all the questions in the application; students should bring this PDF with them when they meet with prospective PSYC399 faculty mentors to facilitate the application process.

 

 

Overview

One goal of the Psychology major is for students to become familiar with the application of the scientific method to topics in psychology, both through critical reading of the primary empirical literature and through first-hand experience with the collection and analysis of psychological data.

One of the distinguishing features of the Psychology major at Penn is the emphasis that is placed on empirical research: Competence in psychological science includes not only a set of ideas about how we think and behave, but also an understanding of how psychologists have arrived at this knowledge. In order to foster a full understanding of the science of psychology, all majors should be comfortable with the application of the scientific method to topics in psychology, both as consumers and as creators of empirical research. The focus on psychology as a science begins in the introductory course, Introduction to Experimental Psychology, and persists in all subsequent, advanced coursework. As majors progress through their curricula, advanced courses shift from textbook summaries of topics to reading of the primary empirical literature. In addition, all majors gain first-hand experience with the process of generating psychological knowledge through empirical research, either by taking a structured Research Experience (300-level) course or by completing a faculty-supervised independent empirical research project (PSYC 399) over the course of one or two semesters; each semester of PSYC 399 receives 1 cu.

Another goal of the Psychology major is for students to understand the fundamentals of statistical inference as it applies to psychological data; and to achieve fluency in a software application for the organization, visualization, and analysis of quantitative information.

Nearly all psychological research rests on the ability to make generalizations about a population based on a sample of empirical data, with some degree of certainty. Therefore, a full understanding of psychological science requires a basic-level understanding of the theoretical principles that govern the process of statistical inference. In addition, in order to understand (and to help generate) the empirical literature of psychology, one must also gain some familiarity with the many applications of these theoretical principles to topics in psychology. Because the methods used by psychologists are so diverse, the statistical applications are equally so; therefore, the goal of statistical competence at the undergraduate level is to acquire knowledge about the foundations of statistical inference, defined broadly, and then to be able to apply relevant statistical methods in at least one area of psychology. All students take at least one course in statistics; in addition to fulfilling a major requirement, introductory statistics courses also fulfill the Quantitative Skills foundational requirement in the General Requirement curriculum of the college. A number of courses are offered at Penn that meet the goal of learning about the basic foundations of statistical inference; in addition, many of these courses also include instruction in the use of software applications for statistical analysis. All students are expected to learn the relevant statistical methods for a topic of interest as they complete their research experience. The implementation of statistical analyses in the Research Experience courses or during the course of independent empirical study with a faculty member (PSYC 399) requires instruction in the organization, visualization, and analysis of quantitative information. 

Choosing a research experience 

This page contains a research description from every member of the standing faculty in psychology (plus several affiliated faculty or lecturers in the department). The listings are subdivided into two sections: (i) Research Experience Courses (300-level seminars) and (ii) independent study opportunities (PSYC 399; 1 cu per semester). Within each section, the listings are arranged alphabetically by the instructor's last name. The goals of these two types of experiences are the same, as described above; however, there are some differences in their implementation. You should speak with a Major advisor to help you decide the best option for you. 

You are advised to contact the individual professor about independent study (PSYC 399) opportunities directly, as soon as possible. Before contacting the professor, please make sure you have read the description including all of the prerequisites and other requirements. We have provided a complete set of listings to help guide your long-term planning. Spaces in each lab are limited.

If you have any questions about the process for enrolling in one of these opportunities or if you want guidance about the selection process, stop by to see one of the psychology advisors during walk-in hours.

If you are interested in doing a 399 the application is now online. This application is due before the end of the add period each semester. 
Please do not submit paper applications.

 

 

RESEARCH EXPERIENCE COURSES  

 

 

PSYC 362-301 Research Experience in Clinical Psychology

Instructor:  Melissa Hunt

Description: This year-long course will provide an intensive, rewarding, and fun research experience in one of several areas of clinical psychology such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, psychological assessment, pet-assisted therapy, and cognitive behavioral interventions for irritable bowel syndrome.  Offering more support and structure than the typical independent study, this course will still allow you to make a serious and original contribution to the field.  Every project is based on original research, not just carried out with existing data sets.  My students feel ownership of their projects and are invested in every stage, from initial design and IRB approval, through data collection, to analysis and write up.  Statistical methods that are covered depend somewhat on the nature of the project, but typically include using SPSS to examine correlations, dependent and/or independent t-tests, ANOVA and ANCOVA, factor analysis, inter-rater reliability, multiple regression and tests of clinical significance.  Over the years, students in this course have presented their work at professional conferences and even merited co-authorship of articles in professional journals.  By the time the course is done, you will know whether a career in clinical psychology is for you, and you will be very well prepared to pursue graduate study in a number of related fields. Class size is limited to 8 students.

Prerequisite(s):  PSYC162

Other Requirements:  Permission of instructor.  Please email Dr. Hunt (mhunt@psych.upenn.edu) if you are interested in PSYC 362.

Semester:  Fall and Spring. This is a year-long course receiving 2 cu's; a two-semester commitment is required, starting in the fall.

 

 

INDEPENDENT STUDY (399) OPTIONS

Independent Study in Human Behavioral Origins

Instructor: Coren Apicella

Description: Research in this lab sits at the interface of psychology, anthropology and biology and are aimed at understanding the proximate (mechanisms) and ultimate (evolutionary) origins of human preferences and decision-making faculties. While a broad range of topics may be explored, including but not limited to, hormones and behavior, mate selection and attraction, behavioral economics, social networks and the evolution of cooperation, evolutionary theory will be used to inform the research. For their independent research course, students will typically be involved in all stages of research from design to implementation, analysis and write-up. Data will be analyzed in STATA and SPSS under guidance from the instructor. Data analysis methods may include t-tests, ANOVAs, chi square tests, correlations and regressions.

Prerequisite(s): STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Semester: Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available (preference given for one-year)

 

Independent Study in Judgment and Decision Making

Instructor: Jon Baron

Prerequisite(s): STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Semester: TBA

 

Independent Study in Judgment and Decision Making

Instructor: Sudeep Bhatia, www.sas.upenn.edu/~bhatiasu

What is your favorite film? What about your favorite food item? Often when people make these sorts of assessments, they rely on information stored in their minds. In our research, we examine how this information is learnt and represented, and how it influences preferences and choices. We use mathematical and computational models of memory and choice. These models adopt insights from economics, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, physics, and other fields. We test our models using experimental human data. For example, we may offer experimental participants choices between different movies or between different food items, and try to predict these choices with our models.

Students will learn how to perform literature reviews, program and implement experiments, and analyze data. Data analysis will involve both hypothesis testing as well as model fitting and parameter recovery. Students will also be exposed to programming languages like MATLAB and Python. 

Prerequisites: STAT111 (or its equivalent), either PSYCH265 or PPE475 (taught by Bhatia). These prerequisites can be waived if student has sufficient experience with statistics or programming. 

 

Independent Study in Visual Perception

Instructor:  David Brainard

Description:  Vision informs us about the environment around us.  Color, for example, provides information about object identity ("the red bicycle") and physical properties ("the yellow banana is ripe").  We are interested in how the light reaching the eye is transformed by the brain to a useful perceptual representation, and we focus on color as a model system for approaching this general problem.  Experiments in the lab measure how object color is determined, as well as study related questions such as how we associate object colors with language and how color is used to guide action and choice.  Students will work with a mentor in the lab to develop their own research project on one of these topics.  Students will learn to analyze data using Excel or Matlab, depending on the project; statistical concepts will include data visualization, estimation of confidence intervals, and fitting of parametric models to data.

Prerequisite(s):  PSYC207, PSYC109, PSYC111, or PSYC217 (at least one of the these; cross-listed equivalent OK); STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  Programming experience preferred

Semester:  Spring

 

Independent Study in the Development of Numerical cognition

Instructor:  Elizabeth Brannon 

Description:  My lab investigates the development of the mathematical mind.  We study preverbal numerical abilities and how they serve as a foundation for symbolic mathematical concepts.  In one line of research we are testing an intervention that is focused on improiving preverbal nonsymbolic mathematical abilities in an effort to improve symbolic math skills.  In another line of research we are using fMRI to study the neural basis of numerical cognition and how the brain changes in response to numerical training. Our current studies focus on school-aged children through adulthood. Opportunities abound for students to gain experience in studies central to the fields of developmental psychology, educational neuroscience, and developmental cognitive neuroscience.

Prerequisite(s):  PSYC160 or PSYC266, and STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  None

Semester:  One-year projects only, starting in Fall 2017

 

Independent Study in Intimate Relationships & Anxiety Disorders

Instructor: Dianne Chambless

Description: Our lab studies the relationship between the qualities of one’s closest relationships and his or her psychological and physical health. We plan to work on the following study during the Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 Terms. Students must be committed to the full academic year and should expect the project to require about 10 hours per week.

We are conducting research on the relationships between patients with anxiety disorders and their closest relative (parent, spouse, or romantic partner). We are interested in learning more about these relationships because particular relationship qualities have proved to predict poor treatment outcome for the patients’ anxiety. Specifically we’re interested in stressful interactions in the family. Students will code video-recordings of patients and their relatives as they try to solve an important problem in their relationship. Students’ independent study projects will utilize the data generated from coding these interactions, as well as self-report questionnaires completed by patients and family members on various relationship constructs and other aspects of psychological functioning. This project will involve Excel and SPSS.  Data analyses will include correlations and multiple regression.

Prerequisites: PSYC 162, STAT 111 (or equivalent), and permission of instructor

Semester: One-year projects only including Fall and Spring terms.

 

Independent Study in Anxiety Disorders & Treatment Processes

Instructor: Dianne Chambless

Description: Our lab studies factors that predict treatment outcomes among adults with panic disorder. We plan to work on the following study during the Fall and Spring terms of the 2017-2018 academic year. We can only include students who can commit to two semesters. Students should expect a 10-hour commitment per week.

We recently completed a study that found that patients’ resistance to therapy (e.g., arguing with the therapist, not answering questions, refusing assignments) predicted treatment dropout and poor treatment response in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for panic disorder. However, this was only true for resistance in its most severe or “hostile” form. Why does hostile resistance lead to poor treatment outcomes? What prompts patients to become hostilely resistant during a therapy session? To explore these questions, students will observe video recordings of CBT while coding patient and/or therapist behaviors. Students’ independent study projects will utilize the data generated from analyzing these therapy interactions, as well as other measures collected during the course of this clinical trial, to answer questions of the students’ interest. This project will involve Excel and SPSS. Data analyses will include correlations and multiple regression.

Prerequisites: PSYC 162, STAT 111 (or equivalent), and permission of instructor

Semester: One year commitment, Fall and Spring terms.

 

Independent Study in Speech Perception and Psycholinguistics

Instructor:  Delphine Dahan

Description:  Our work aims to understand how people make sense of the speech they hear so rapidly and accurately despite the large variability in the physical realization of words across talkers and dialects of the same language.  To assess people's interpretation of speech as they hear and process it under various listening conditions, we make use of a variety of behavioral methods, including an eye-tracking methodology.  Participants' eye movements to visually present objects are monitored as participants follow spoken instructions to select one of the objects.  People typically fixate on a few of the displayed objects before selecting the named object but usually remain unaware of where their gaze falls.  Analysis of their fixations over time uncovers their on-going interpretation of the speech (see http://www.psych.upenn.edu/~dahan/lab/ for more details on the research).  Students will develop and conduct a study related to some of the current projects in the lab.  Students will learn to analyze data using R, a free statistical package; statistical concepts will include one- and two-sample hypothesis tests, one- and two-way ANOVA, or multiple linear or logistic regressions.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC151; STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  None

Semester:  Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available (preference given for one-year)

 

Independent Study in the Psychopathology and Treatment of Disorders of Mood

Instructor:  Robert DeRubeis

Description:  We study a variety of phenomena that we think will help us understand why some depressed people, and not others, benefit from a treatment, or why they might benefit differentially from very different treatments.  The treatments we study are: cognitive therapy, antidepressant medications, the combination of cognitive therapy and medications, and placebo therapy.  We also conduct research the aim of which is to understand the nature of depression, or of differences in the conditions that we group under the umbrella term "depression." We do this both with specific studies of the cognitive and other features of depression, but also with our treatment studies, which can provide clues for a better understanding of the basic phenomena of depression.  Students will become more familiar with the following kinds of analytic methods:  contingency analysis (chi-square), correlation, t-tests, general linear models that encompass regression, ANOVA, and ANCOVA.  Some students will learn the rudiments of multi-level modeling (e.g., HLM) or multivariate methods such as factor analysis.  Students should have, at least, a facility with Excel, to aid data management.

Prerequisite(s):  PSYC162; STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  None

Semester: Some one-year projects available

 

Independent Study in the Psychology of Achievement

Instructor:  Angela Duckworth

Description:  My lab investigates personality traits that predict achievement.  Our empirical research focuses on two traits in particular: self-control (which we study primarily in children) and grit (which we study primarily in adults).  Our recent projects emphasize (1) goal setting and planning strategies that facilitate self-control, particularly in work situations; (2) psychological distancing strategies that facilitate self-control in interpersonal situations; (3) cognitive and affective processes underlying grit (i.e., perseverance and sustained commitment to challenging, long-term goals); (4) environmental factors (e.g., life events, parenting styles, school factors) that encourage self-control and grit; and (5) the subjective experience of learning and practice. Many students will use data already collected by my laboratory to develop their own research project on one of these topics.  Others will design and complete a study on their own.  All students learn to analyze data using SPSS, AMOS, and/or STATA; statistical models are typically parametric, including linear, ordinal, and/or binary logistic regression, and where appropriate structural equation modeling.

Prerequisite(s):  PSYC160 or PSYC266 and also STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  None

Semester:  One-year projects only.

 

Independent Study in the Neural Basis of Human Spatial Cognition

Instructor:  Russell Epstein

Description:  We study the brain systems that underlie human spatial navigation—the ability to find one’s way from one place to another in the world.  We are especially interested in two questions: (1) How do we visually recognize landmarks, scenes, and other objects of potential navigational relevance?  (2) How do we learn and remember the spatial structure of large-scale environments such as cities or college campuses?  Our primary methods for investigating these issues are functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and cognitive behavioral testing of normal populations. Following a period of orientation to the methods used in the lab, subjects will work with a mentor to develop their own research project.  Students will analyze data with Excel, SPSS, Matlab, and dedicated fMRI data analysis software; statistical concepts will include hypothesis testing, ANOVA, generalized linear models, and statistical parameter mapping.

Prerequisite(s):  PSYC149, STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  None

Semester:  Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available (preference given for one-year)

 

Independent Study in Neuroscience and Society

Instructor:  Martha Farah

Description: These projects will focus on the social, ethical and legal impact of recent advances in neuroscience and the effects of social context on brain function. Current projects are aimed at understanding the motivations of individuals using neuropsychiatric medications for enhancing normal brain function, the effects of such medications on normal healthy individuals, the ways in which neuroimaging is interpreted by the lay public, and the effect of looking at human behavior as the result of physical (neural) processes on moral judgments.  Another set of projects address the influence of social context on brain function, particularly the effects of socioeconomic status.  The research methods used in these studies varies according to the question being addressed, with current work using internet surveys, laboratory behavioral testing, brain imaging, measurement of stress hormones, pharmacological manipulations and candidate gene analyses. Subjects include college students, community adults and community children. Students will work with a mentor in the lab to learn one or more of these methods and to develop their own project or subproject related to the issues described above.  Students will learn to analyze data using SPSS or Excel, depending on the project; statistical concepts will include one- and two-sample hypothesis tests, one- and two-way ANOVA, simple and multiple linear least-squares regression and mediation analyses.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC109 or PSYC149 or PSYC151;  STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements: PSYC247 recommended but not required

Semester:  Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available (preference given for one-year)

 

Independent Study in Behavioral Neuroendocrinology

Instructor:  Loretta Flanagan-Cato

Description:  We study the links between hormone action, brain circuits, and behavior.  Two systems that we focus on are, 1) the effects of ovarian hormones on neural plasticity in the hypothalamus, and 2) the effects of the blood pressure hormone angiotensin on water and salt ingestion.  Recent projects have discovered (1) the effects of estrogen to re-wire synaptic connections in the hypothalamus; and (2) the role of specific kinase pathways to mediate angiotensin effects on thirst and sodium appetite.  We study hormone action in the brain by incorporating behavioral, neuroanatomical, and molecular approaches.  Students will work with a mentor in the lab to learn one or more of these methods and to develop their own research project on one of these topics.  Students will learn to analyze data using Excel and Prism; statistical concepts will include power analysis, outlier testing, one- and two-way ANOVA, and post-hoc tests.

Prerequisite(s): BBB109; STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  None

Semester:  Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available (preference given for one-year)

 

Independent Study in Moral Judgment and Reasoning

Instructor:  Geoffrey Goodwin

Description:  My lab studies moral judgment and reasoning.  Questions that I am currently investigating include (but are not limited to):  (1) Do people regard their moral beliefs as objectively true facts as opposed to subjective preferences, and if so, why?  (2) What underlies the desire to punish criminal offenders?  (3) How do people make judgments of the moral character of other individuals?  (4) How do people make judgments about the moral value of different human lives?  Students will work with me to develop their own project on one of these topics, or a related topic.  Projects in my lab would typically involve designing and carrying out one or more behavioral studies, analyzing the results (in SPSS or some other statistical software package), and writing up the results in the style of an empirical journal article.  Data from research projects will be analyzed in SPSS (or a similar software package).  Depending on the project, statistical tests such as the following will be used: t-tests, ANOVAs, chi square tests, correlations, regressions, and mediational analyses. 

Prerequisite(s):  PSYC 170 OR PSYC 253; STAT111 (or its equivalent).  (Some flexibility in these course requirements may be warranted in exceptional cases).

Other Requirements:  None

Semester:  Fall or Spring

 

Independent Study in the Behavioral Neuroscience of Energy Balance

Instructor:  Harvey Grill

Description:  Focus is on providing interested undergraduate students with hands-on exposure to biomedical research in areas that could be described as behavioral or systems neuroscience. Rodent models are used to address research questions related to the broad topic area of the neural and neuroendocrine control of food intake and body weight control.  Examples of topics of several recent 399 students: Role of Hippocampal Leptin Receptor Contributions to Appetitive Learned Behavior; Food Intake and Meal Pattern Analyses of the Combined Effects of Two Anorexic Drugs acting on Different Receptors; A Role for the Paraventricular Hypothalamus and the Parabrachial Nucleus in Prostaglandin-Induced Fever’ Common Sites of action for the Intake Inhibitory Effects of Intra-intestinal Nutrients and Melanocortin Receptor Stimulation.  Experiments involve handling rats, making behavioral and various other measurements, keeping records, data summary and presentation.  Students will learn to enter, manipulate and analyze data using Excel.  Statistical concepts will include one- and two-way ANOVA, and simple and multiple linear least-squares regression.  Students will be guided in the process of writing their results in scientific paper format.

Prerequisite(s):  BBB109, PSYC127, or permission of the instructor

Other Requirements:  None

Semester:  Fall or Spring

 

Independent Study in Neuroeconomics

Instructor:  Joseph Kable

Description:  We study how people make decisions, and seek to trace out the underlying psychological and neural mechanisms of choice.  Research in the lab draws links across different levels of analysis, and aims to build explanations of decision-making that account for both people's choices and the neural mechanisms underlying those choices.  Projects employ an interdisciplinary approach to tackle these questions, drawing on methods and ideas from social and cognitive neuroscience, experimental economics, and personality psychology.  The neuroscientific methods used include functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), quantitative analysis of behavioral deficits in neurological patients, noninvasive brain stimulation, and eye-tracking.  Students will learn how to use computer presentation software (E-Prime, Psychtoolbox, PsychoPy or Qualtrics) and data analysis software (Matlab, Excel, or SPSS). The statistical concepts introduced include t-tests, correlation, ANOVA, non-parametric tests, multiple linear regression, logistic regression, and nonlinear optimization.  Students will also have weekly meetings with the instructor and will have to present their work in at least one lab meeting.

Prerequisite(s):  PSYC253 or PSYC149 or equivalent; STAT111 or equivalent

Other Requirements:  None

Semester:  Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available

 

Independent Study in Human Memory and its Neural Basis

Instructor:  Michael Kahana

Description:  We study the neural bases of human memory and learning, with a particular emphasis on episodic memory (memory for events).  Recent projects emphasize the role of brain oscillations in the encoding and retrieval of information bound to a spatiotemporal context; and developing computational models of episodic and spatial memory.  We study memory using a variety of behavioral and neuroscientific methods including scalp electroencephalography (EEG) in healthy young adults, and intracranial EEG and single-neuron recordings in neurosurgical patients with epilepsy and Parkinson's disease.  Students will learn experimental techniques and will also have the opportunity to carry out original data analyses and/or computational modeling concerning human memory.  As part of this research experience, students will learn to do statistical estimation and goodness-of-fit testing using Matlab. 

Prerequisite(s):  Math 114

Other Requirements:  Computer programming (e.g., CIS 120 or its equivalent).

Semester:  Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available (preference given for one-year)

 

Independent Study in Evolutionary Psychology 

Instructor:  Robert Kurzban

Research in my lab is motivated by an explicit evolutionary/biological analysis of function.  In their independent research, students will be able to pursue a research question about a wide range of human behavior, with an emphasis on human social behavior, including areas such as friendship, morality, mating, and cooperation.  In my lab, students are largely free to pursue the topic and the method for their research. Techniques range from mining existing datasets to simple vignette studies to experimental economic techniques. Generally, students who work with me have taken PSYC 272; I have indicted it here as a prerequisite, but this will be waived in special circumstances. Study design is generally kept relatively straightforward, and data analysis will be done in SPSS, largely using ANOVA or related techniques.

Prerequisite: PSYC 272 and Stat 111 (or its equivalent)

Other requirements: None.

Semester: Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available (preference given for one-year)

 

Independent Study in Judgment and Decision Making

Instructor: Barbara Mellers 

Description: The ability to make accurate forecasts is important in a wide range of occupations. . We are currently working on a large initiative to improve the science of prediction. Our team competes with four other teams across the country to develop the most accurate forecasts of 100 global events (e.g., economic, political, military, or social) each year for four years.

This independent study will focus on prediction markets. In recent years, prediction markets, such as Intrade and the Iowa Prediction Market, have gained a reputation for accurately predicting outcomes. In this seminar, we will examine this method and other methods of judgmental forecasting. Are prediction methods really better than expert surveys and opinion polls? Why do prediction markets work? Under what conditions do they work best?

Students will read popular and scientific literature about forecasting, prediction markets and the wisdom of crowds. They will conduct literature reviews, develop hypotheses, perform data analyses testing these hypotheses, and summarize their findings in a final paper.

Prerequisite(s): STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements: None

Semester: Spring

 

Independent Study in Social, Cultural, and Decision Psychology

Instructor:  Paul Rozin

Description:  Usually two semesters of individual research, including mastery of a literature, development of a problem to study, design of a study, collection of data, analysis of data, and write-up of the data.  About half of these projects end up as publications with the student as an author.  Topics currently under study include: What types of sequences of events (as in a concert or a meal) produce the most positive memories; Magical contagion beliefs; Preference for natural things, cross culturally; The psychology of meat, water and chocolate (3 separate problems); Hindu and Buddhist religious outlooks from a psychological perspective; Cultural aspects of the relation of people to food; Determinants of food choice; Asian versus Western comparisons in cognition, food psychology, and other areas; The perception of character; The psychology of music. Students will learn how to use SPSS, manage databases, and some basic inferential statistics like chi square, ANOVA, t-tests and correlations, and regressions.

Prerequisite(s): STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  None

Semester:  Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available (preference given for one-year)

 

Independent Study in Clinical Psychology:  Anxiety and Depression

Instructor: Ayelet Ruscio

Description:  Most people who suffer from anxiety also suffer from depression.  The reasons for this are poorly understood.  Our lab is working to identify shared risk processes for anxiety and depression, as well as specific processes that predispose to just one of these conditions.  Recent projects have focused on risk processes such as worry (the tendency to get stuck in negative, repetitive thinking), threat sensitivity (the tendency to perceive ambiguous or minor events as threatening), and reward responsiveness (the inability to gain pleasure from rewarding experiences).  We study these processes in clinical and healthy populations using a variety of approaches (laboratory experiments, correlational studies, daily diary methods) and measures (self-report, behavioral, psychophysiological).  Working closely with Professor Ruscio, Independent Study students will pursue research focusing on risk processes in anxiety and depression.  Students will gain experience with study design, participant screening and recruitment, data collection, data management and analysis, and scientific writing.  Students will learn to analyze data using SPSS, selecting and applying statistical tools appropriate for their research questions; these may include descriptive statistics, t-tests, one-way or factorial analysis of variance (ANOVA), chi-square, correlation, or multiple regression.  Depending on the outcomes of the project and the interest of the student, students may have the opportunity to disseminate their findings to the scientific community through conference presentation or publication.  Readings and discussions will focus on challenges and opportunities involved in conducting informative clinical research.

Prerequisite(s):  PSYC162 (Abnormal Psychology) and STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  Permission of the instructor; For more information about completing a PSYC 399 in our lab, please see: https://sites.sas.upenn.edu/ruscio-lab/pages/join-us

Semester:  Fall and Spring.  (A two-semester commitment is required.)

 

Independent Study in Positive Psychology

Instructor: Martin Seligman

Description:  We study positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment.  PERMA, in short.  Our current projects include positive education, comprehensive soldier fitness, creativity, positive gaming, posttraumatic growth, longitudinal investigations of PERMA on physical and mental health and the measurement of PERMA.  Students will work with a mentor on publishable projects.  Students will learn hypothesis generation, external validity, visualization and presentation of data, persuasive writing and compelling argumentation.

Prerequisite(s):  STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  None

Semester:  Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available (preference given for one-year)

 

Independent Study in Computational Perception and Cognition

Instructor: Alan Stocker

Description:  Research in the Computational Perception and Cognition Laboratory is aimed at discovering the computational principles that govern human visual perception and perceptual decision making. Our general assumption is that most perceptual and cognitive processes are tasks that the human brain tries to solve as well and efficiently as possible.  Our approach is to derive models based on this assumption, which we then carefully validate with psychophysical experiments.  Current projects study (1) human visual motion perception, (2) perceptual adaptation, and (3) sequential perceptual decision-making.  Students will work with a mentor in the lab on a research project within the broader scope of one of these topics. Some specific project descriptions will be listed under http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~astocker/lab/teaching.php.

All projects require an interest and background in computation (e.g. probability theory), and some programming skills. More specifically, our experimental setup is fully computer controlled and using it requires proficient knowledge of the programming language MATLAB. However, a limited number of projects are available for students who are eager to learn programming in MATLAB.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC111 or PSYC151 or PSYC217 (requirement only for psychology majors); STAT111 (or any other higher level math course)

Other Requirements:  MATLAB programming (but see above)

Semester:  Fall, Spring (typical duration: one semester)

 

Independent Study in Human Language Learning

Instructor:  Daniel Swingley

Description:  We study how learning in infancy forms the basis for language acquisition in childhood, focusing primarily on word learning and discovery of the sound structure of language.  Recent projects have taken one of a set of approaches, including (1) careful analysis of corpora of maternal speech; (2) experiments testing adults' learning of features of maternal speech in English or another language; (3) computational studies of aspects of language structure; (4) experimental studies of perceptual categorization and learning in adults.  Depending on the nature of the project, students will learn some phonetics and/or some fairly elementary programming, and graphical methods and analysis using R, possibly including logistic regression, one- and two-sample tests of group differences, and ANOVA.

Prerequisite(s): At least one course in linguistics, cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience, cognitive development, perception, or computer science.

Other Requirements:  None

Semester:  Fall (with preference for one-year projects beginning in the Fall).

 

Independent Study in Political Psychology

Instructor: Philip Tetlock

Description:  Good policy making presupposes good forecasting skills—or, at a minimum, greater ability than one’s political critics to predict the consequences likely to flow from adopting one policy instead of another (be it invading Iraq or implementing a national value-added tax or passing universal health insurance or…).  Students working in my lab can assist with a large-scale federally funded initiative to sponsor forecasting tournaments that should allow us to answer key questions left unanswered in the 2005 Expert political judgment book and in the wider research literature.  Students will be involved in everything from literature reviews and hypothesis development to research design to data coding, collection to data analysis, and interpretation.  Data analysis methods include linear regression and psychometric techniques.

Prerequisite(s):  STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  Background in political science, international relations and/or intelligence analysis, supplemented with an interest in human judgment.

Semester:  Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available (preference given for one-year)

 

Independent Study in Human Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience

Instructor: Sharon Thompson-Schill

Description: We study the biological bases of human cognitive systems – perception, memory, language, thought, cognitive control – and the interrelations among these systems, with a particular emphasis on the characterization of typical and atypical variation across individuals.  Recent projects emphasize (1) functions of the frontal lobe in the regulation of thought and behavior, especially in relation to language and memory processes; and (2) the organization and neural substrates of concept knowledge (especially knowledge of visual attributes) and the relation between conceptual information and perception and language.  We answer these questions by developing and implementing a wide array of behavioral and neuroscientific methods with both typical and atypical populations, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), lesion-deficit mapping of neurological patients, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), genotypic analysis of typical variation, on-line eye-tracking, & so on.  Students will work with a mentor in the lab to learn one or more of these methods and to develop their own research project on one of these topics.  Students will learn to analyze data using SPSS, Excel, or Matlab, depending on the project; statistical concepts will include one- and two-sample hypothesis tests, one- and two-way ANOVA, simple and multiple linear least-squares regression, categorical data analysis and goodness-of-fit tests.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC151 or PSYC149; STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  None.

Semester: Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available (preference given for one-year)

 

Independent Study in the Psychology of Language

Instructor:  John Trueswell

Description:  Our research group studies how languages are learned and how they are processed.  We are especially interested in how language is supported by various human cognitive systems (i.e., perception, learning, memory, thought, attention and cognitive control).  Much of the research uses eye-tracking methods to study spoken language processing; the eye movements of children (and adults) are recorded as they hear speech referring to a visual referent world.  The participant's eye movements to objects in the world can tell us what he or she is considering as possible referents in 'real time' as the speech is unfolding.  We use this and other methods to study:  (1) how children and adults learn the grammatical properties of their language; (2) how they deploy that grammatical knowledge during speaking and listening; and (3) how children learn the meanings of words within and across multiple learning instances.  Some of this work involves comparisons across languages, so students with knowledge of other languages are also encouraged to get involved in the lab.  Students will work with a mentor in the lab and may develop their own research project on one of these topics.  Students will learn to analyze data using R and Excel; statistical concepts will include one-and two-sample hypothesis tests, one- and two-way ANOVA, simple and multiple linear regression, and perhaps logistic regressions for binary data.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC151 or PSYC149 or COGS101/PSYC207; STAT111 (or its equivalent)

Other Requirements:  None

Semester:  Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available (preference given for one-year)