Descriptions of PSYC4998 possibilities and faculty mentored research

Students considering a PSYC 4998 Mentored Research project (aka an Independent Study project) are encouraged to peruse the suggested research options below. Students typically begin exploring PSYC 4998 options during advance registration of the semester preceding their planned 4998 reseach project.  Students must arrange their own Mentored Research project (PSYC 4998).

Learn more about organizing your Mentored Research (PSYC4998) here.

To learn more about conducting undergraduate mentored research in our department, please also see our Mentored Research Canvas site here. This site is available to all Penn users.

Numerous faculty members have supplied information about possible opportunities in their labs (with the associated prerequisites or other requirements). To pursue a Mentored Research project (PSYC 4998), please set up a meeting with the relevant faculty member. It is suggested you read some of their publications in advance of discussing this opportunity with them.

Note: For information about Dr. Melissa Hunt's year-long PSYC 4462 research course in Clinical and Abnormal Psychology, please email Dr. Hunt, mhunt@psych.upenn.edu

 

Mentored Research in Human Behavioral Origins

Mentor: Coren Apicella

Description: Research in this lab sits at the interface of psychology, anthropology and biology and is aimed at understanding the cultural and biological origins of human social behavior. For their independent research course, students are usually involved in all stages of research including design, implementation, analysis and write-up. Data will be analyzed in STATA or SPSS under guidance from the instructor. Data analysis methods may include t-tests, ANOVAs, chi-square tests, correlations, and regressions. Professor Apicella is looking for students interested in studying punishment in Hadza, hunter-gatherers of Tanzania. Students will conduct a literature review on punishment in pre-industrialized socities, including hunter-gatherer populations. They will also conduct secondary analysis using interview data from the Hadza to better understand which types of behaviors are deemed punishable and which mechanisms of punishment the Hadza rely on.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); PSYC 170; PSYC 272, PSYC 472, or ANTH 003.

Semester: One-year projects only

 

Mentored Research in Visual Development

Mentor: Mike Arcaro (marcaro@sas.upenn.edu)

Description: How does our environment guide neural development, and how does the emerging neural architecture suppport perception and behavior? Our research combines neuroimaging, psychophysics, and electrophysiology to understand how intrinsic and experience-driven processes interact throughout development to shape brain organziation and behavior.  The lab's current focus is on neural development supporting visual object recognition across mammalian species.  Independent study projects could involve design, data collection, and/or data analysis of behavioral experiments, neuroimaging experiments, and/or electrophysiological recordings.  PSYC 4998 students are directly supervised by a postdoctoral research associate or a graduate students.  Students attend weekly lab meetings led by Dr. Arcaro, attend team-based project meetings, and meet individually with Dr. Arcaro at least once per semester.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); PSYC 1230.  Programming experience is strongly preferred.

Semester: One-year projects only

 

Mentored Research in Deficient thinking by citizens, and its effects on public policy

Mentor: Jonathon Baron

Description: Deficient thinking by voters in democracies leads to outcomes that are worse for everyone. One source of poor thinking is failure to apply the standards of actively open-minded thinking. Another is adherence to deontological moral rules that lead to systemtic failures to achieve optimal outcomes. I study these deficiences through questionnaire studies about public policies and other things. I have no particular projects in mind, so I am responsive to student interests that overlap with mine. I do not come to campus much, so I work with students largely by email and virtual meetings.

Prerequisite(s): For data analysis, familiarity with R. Otherwise some background in relevant fields: Psych 2737 or other relevant courses such as moral psychology, many PPE courses or cognitive science courses, depending on the nature of the project.

Semester: Spring, Fall, or full year

Dr. Baron is accepting up to four undergraduate students for mentored research.

 

Mentored Research in Human and Machine Cognition

Mentor: Sudeep Bhatia

Description: How do people think and decide, and how can we use recent advances in artificial intelligence to understand and improve human cognition? This research opportunity will examine these questions using theories developed by cognitive psychologists and cognitive scientists, as well as machine learning models developed by computer scientists. Students will learn how to perform literature reviews, program and implement behavioral experiments, train machine learning models, and analyze human and machine-generated data. Students will also be exposed to programming languages like Python. Students are given a large amount of control over the direction of the project, and are expected to contribute to its conceptual development (as well as, of course, data collection and analysis).  The amount of supervision depends on the needs of the student and the project, but typically involves at least one weekly meeting with the PI or a postdoc/grad student.

Prerequisites: STAT 1110 (or its equivalent). Students should have a strong computational, statistical, or mathematical background. Familiarity with natural language processing is especially desirable. Prior coursework in psychology or cognitive science will also be helpful.

Semester: Fall, Spring, or full-year

 

Mentored Research in the Development of Numerical Cognition

Mentor: Elizabeth Brannon  

Description:  My lab investigates the development and evolution 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 studying the relationship between preverbal nonsymbolic mathematical abilities and early math skills. In another line of research we are using fMRI to study the neural basis of numerical cognition and how the mathematical brain changes with development. We also have opportunities to work with animals and explore how number is represented without language. Opportunities abound for students to gain experience in studies central to the fields of developmental psychology, educational neuroscience, comparative psychology and developmental cognitive neuroscience. PSYC 4998 students are directly supervised by a postdoctoral research associate or graduate student.  Students attend weekly lab meetings led by Dr. Brannon, attend team project-based meetings with Dr. Brannon and other students working on the same project, and meet individually with Dr. Brannon at least once a semester and upon request.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); PSYC 1230 or PSYC 1777 

Semester: One-year projects only (two semester)

  

Mentored Research inVisual Perception and Computation

Mentor: Johannes Burge

Description: My lab uses an array of theoretical, computational, and experimental tools to study the basic computations that make vision possible. We have a number of ongoing projects in the lab. Some involve examining how natural scene statistics shape the computations performed by our sensory-perceptual systems. Others involve measuring and modeling how image differences between the eyes (e.g. luminace differences, blur differences, etc.) impact three-dimensional motion perception. See http://burgelab.psych.upenn.edu/projects.html for more details. Students will work with a graduate student, postdoc, and/or directly with the principle investigator as appropriate.  Semester(s): A minimum commitment of two semesters is required.

Prerequisites: PSYC 111 (or equivalent), STAT 1110 (or equivalent), and a strong interest in modeling visual perception.  

Other requirements: MATLAB programming, or fluency in another programming language. Prior experience with (or desire to learn) projection geometry, linear algebra, and/or probability theory is a bonus.

 

Mentored Research in Psycholinguistic and Language Use

Mentor: Delphine Dahan

Description: The goal of this research is to characterize and explain how people use language to successfully communicate with one another to accomplish a common goal, such as completing a matching game.  To this end, my lab conducts behavioral studies of language use in conversation.  We record and analyze unscripted conversations between two partners who work together to accomplish a common goal in order to understand how conversation partners communicate successfully.  Because each conversation is unique in many ways, the challenge is to find ways to characterize each one in more abstract dimensions in order to describe how people proceed, above and beyond the specific words they use.  

Due to the nature of this research, it is not feasible to develop individual studies, execute them, and analyze the data all within the span of one or two semesters.  Students typically join an ongoing study and work with me and possibly other lab members on a project, receiving guidance on how to take ownership of the project.  Students are supervised directly by me and meet with me and other lab members weekly to discuss on-going progress.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); PSYC 0001

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

 

Mentored Research in the Psychology of Achievement

Mentor: Angela Duckworth

Description:  No availablities at this time.

 

Mentored Research in the Neural Basis of Human Spatial Cognition

Mentor: 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 behavioral testing of normal populations and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Following a period of orientation to the methods used in the lab, subjects will work with a mentor to develop their own research project. The depth and independence of the project will depend on the amount of prior experience with the methods. Students will analyze data with Excel, SPSS, Matlab, or dedicated fMRI data analysis software; statistical concepts will include hypothesis testing, ANOVA, generalized linear models, and statistical parameter mapping.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); PSYC 1230

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

 

Mentored Research in Neuroscience and Society

Mentor: 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): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); PSYC 109 or PSYC 149 or PSYC 151

Other Requirements: PSYC 247 (PSYC 2288) recommended, but not required

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

 

Mentored Research in Sleep, Neuroplasticity, and Depression

Mentor: Jennifer Goldschmied (jrgolds2@pennmedicine.upenn.edu)

Description: No availabilities at this time.

 

Mentored Research in Moral Judgment and Reasoning

Mentor: Geoffrey Goodwin

Description:  My lab studies moral judgment and reasoning.  Questions that I am currently investigating include (but are not limited to):  (1) How do people make judgments about saving and sacrificing lives (e.g., in cases of euthanasia)?  (2) How do people make judgments about the moral value of different human lives?  (3) What underlies the desire to punish criminal offenders?  Students will work with me to develop their own project on one of these topics, or another topic within the field of moral judgment.  Projects in my lab would typically involve designing and carrying out one or more survey 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.  Depending on the project, statistical tests such as the following will be used: t-tests, ANOVAs, chi square tests, correlations, regressions, and mediation analyses. 

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); PSYC 1440 or PSYC 2737.  (Some flexibility in these course requirements may be warranted in exceptional cases).

Semester: Fall, Spring, or one-year project

 

Mentored Research in Independent Study in Human Olfaction, Emotion, and Behavior

Mentor: Jay Gottfried

Description:  Research in our lab focuses on the most unheralded yet most mysterious of the senses: smell. There are two unique and singular properties of the olfactory system. First, the olfactory system is virtually synonymous with memory, emotion, and decision-making, with projections from the nose terminating directly on limbic brain regions such as the amygdala, entorhinal cortex, and insula. These anatomical connections likely explain why smells are so often associated with memory "flashbacks" that reactivate potent emotional and autobiographical memories. The second intriguing property is that smell loss is often the very first symptom of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, even before the emergence of overt symptoms and signs. In our lab, we are especially interested in understanding how different odors – such as the smell of rose, mint, or wet dog – are encoded in the human brain, and how learning and experience modulate the perceptual and emotional content of odors. Our primary methods for elucidating these questions include behavioral testing, sensory psychophysics, functional MRI, and intracranial EEG recordings in epilepsy patients with medically resistant seizures. By applying multiple different approaches to fundamental questions of the human olfactory system, we will be able to gain more comprehensive understanding of how the brain transforms an odor molecule at the nose into an aromatic smell that can drive behavior. Students will begin with an orientation introducing them to the olfactometer (smell delivery machine) and to the art and science of diluting, mixing, and delivering odors to human subjects, and will then work with a mentor to develop their own research questions and project. Students will analyze data with Matlab, Excel, and dedicated fMRI analysis software; statistical concepts will include t-tests, correlations, ANOVA, non-parametric tests, and general linear models. Depending on the student’s mathematical background, they may also have an opportunity to learn signal processing analyses that can be applied to the intracranial EEG data-sets. Students will have weekly meetings with their instructor and will be expected to present their work in at least one lab meeting. A good sense of smell is always helpful, but not required.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); and PSYC 1210

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

 

Mentored Research in Clinical Psychology and Behavioral Health

Mentor: Melissa Hunt

Description: In my lab, we study a variety of topics in the domain of clinical psychology, including integrative behavioral health in the area of psychotherapeutic treatments for people with chronic GI disorders, stress and stress management (e.g., mindfulness meditaiton and heart rate variability), health behaviors (e.g., how to encourage behaviors crucial to public health, how to decrease stigma and help-seeking for mental health), professional burnout in health service providers, ethical decision making in clinical psychology, the impact of social media use on mental health and well-being, and a variety of other topics as student interest allows.  My PSYC 4998 students have typically already spent their junior year in my lab in the context of my PSYC 362 (PSYC 4462) course (Reseach Experience in Abnormal Psychology), and will often continue to pursue the same line of research in greater depth.  Very occasionally I accept a PSYC 4998 student who has not previously been in my lab to work on a new program of research, but those individuals must approach me in the spring of their junior year to discuss their ideas with me.  Most students in my lab work on existing lines of research.  Sometimes this means continuing to manage an existing study (such as an ongoing, multi-year clinical trial) or starting a new study in an existing line of research. Students typically work in small groups, with one 4998 student having leadership in a group that includes several students in my PSYC 362 course.  Most, but not all, projects can be completed in a single 9 month period. By the end of the year, students will be familiar with the following kinds of analytic methods: chi square, correlation, t-tests, general linear models that include regression, ANOVA, and ANCOVA, interrater reliablility, moderation and mediation.  Some students will also learn factor analysis, depending on the natue of their project.  Each small work group meets directly with me, weekly, for a full hour. While I provide a good deal of close mentorship, I do expect students to show a fair bit of initiative and independence - reviewing the relevant literature, finding appropriate measures, drafting the IRB protocol, programming the study in Qualtrics, collecting and cleaning the data, and drafting their final paper, poster, and talk.  I provide detailed help, training and guidance with statistical analysis using SPSS.

Prerequisites: PSYC 1462 and (typically) PSYC 4462.

Semester:  Year-long projects only.


Mentored Research in Longitudinal Data Analysis

Mentor: Sara Jaffee

Description: My lab uses longitudinal, epidemiological methods to study risk and resilience in children's development. My lab studies a broad range of questions related to developmental psychopathology.  I will no longer be accepting PSYC 4998 students in my lab except for those who are interested in completing a year-long senior honors project (PSYC 4999) with me as part of the Psychology Honors Program.  Students who are conducting a senior  honors project with me can expect to work with a range of exisiting, longitudinal data sets, many of which span multiple developmental periods and include biological, cognitive, and psychosocial data.  I will work with honors students to develop a research question and to conduct statistical analyses.  Honors students will meet weekly with me and will be expected to attend lab meeting. Available data are from national surveys of adolescent well-being and national surveys of children and families and include information on mental health, parent and peer relationships, physical health, substance use, and adverse experiences, among other things.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent)

Semester:  Year-long senior honors projects (PSYC 4999) in Psychology only.

 

Mentored Research in Human Social Cognition and Decision-Making

Mentor: Anna Jenkins

Description: How does the human brain produce flexible social behavior? In order to make social decisions, humans often need to fill in gaps in the information available in the environment - for example, information about what another person believes, intends, desires, and will do. In turn, how the mind fills in these gaps can have important consequences for behavior.  Understanding how the brain accomplishes these feats of inference is not only interesting but also has potentially important implications, ranging from predictions of societal-level behavior to the design of artifical intelligence systems to identifying the root causes of disorders of social functioning.

Research in our lab investigates a variety of questions about human social thought and its relationship to other cognitive systems, including questions about the cognitive processes that make it possible to predict and infer the contents of other people's minds under uncertainty and how these processes and their outputs guide behavior.  Our work uses a combination of behavioral and neuroimaging (fMRI) experiments, along with computational modeling, natural language processing, and other approaches.

Specific projects will depend on the student's skills and interests in areas including but not limited to the following topics: theory of mind or mentalizing, mental simulation or imagination, abstraction, social decision-making.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 or its equivalent

Semester: Any semester or full year

 

 

Mentored Research in Neuroeconomics

Mentor: 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. 4998 students in the lab work directly with a postdoctoral fellow or graduate student and take ownership over a component of a larger project. Students attend weekly lab meetings and have brief weekly check-in meetings with their direct supervisor and Dr. Kable. Students will have to present their work in at least one lab meeting.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); PSYC 1230, 2737, 2750 OR 2555.

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

If interested, please review the info at http://www.kablelab.com/. In particular, there is a page about undergraduate research options: http://www.kablelab.com/undergrad-ras.html

Please contact Dr. Kable for more info.

 

Mentored Research in Human Memory and its Neural Basis

Mentor: Michael Kahana

Description:  We develop and test computational models of human memory, and relate the hypothesized memory processes to measures of neural activity. Examples of recent projects can be found on my webpage. Students will learn experimental techniques and will also have the opportunity to carry out original data analyses and/or computational modeling in Python. 

Prerequisite(s): Some computer programming experience

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

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

 

Mentored Research in Cognitive Neuroscience: Environmental influences on early childhood brain development

Mentor: Allyson Mackey 

Description: We are interested in how experiences in early childhood shape the development of brain structure and function, and ultimately influence cognition and academic performance. We are studying both negative experiences, such as poverty and stress, and positive experiences, such as cognitive enrichment and social support. Do such experiences speed up or slow down brain development, and are the effects global or specific to particular neural circuits? What are the effects of developmental timing on plasticity? We are looking for undergraduates to help with child recruitment, administering neurocognitive assessments (in the lab, and in schools and museums), acquiring magnetic resonance imaging data, and data analysis. Experience in computer programming languages such as Matlab and Python is helpful but not required. 

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent), experience working with children is required. 

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

 

 

Mentored Research in Judgment and Decision Making

Mentor: Barbara Mellers 

Description: Individual Differences in Preferences for Risk. We take a new look at what underlies human tendencies to take and avoid risk. We are focused on the role of the reference point, hedonic sensitivity to changes from that reference point (e.g., loss aversion) and beliefs about outcomes (e.g. hope and fear). We’re conducting laboratory studies that require some understanding of Qualtrics, experimental design, statistical analyses and R programming. Students will read popular and scientific literature about risk preferences. They will conduct literature reviews, develop hypotheses, perform data analyses testing these hypotheses, and summarize their findings in a final paper.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent)

Semester: Spring

 

Mentored Research in Humanities and Human Flourishing

Mentor: James Pawelski and Katherine CotterPlease contact Katherine Cotter (kncotter@sas.upenn.edu) if interested.

Description: Throughout history, the arts and humanities have helped people feel connected to each other, providing a deep sense of belonging.  In modern society, rates of depression, anxiety, and loneliness are increasing, and some are looking towards the arts and humanities to address these trends to promote greater well-being. The Humanities and Human Flourishing Project seeks to understand the ability of the arts and humanities to contribute to well-being. In this independent study, students will contribute to research projects examining the well-being effects of arts and humanities engagement.  Students will have the opportunity to develop and complete a project related to the lab's ongoing work and will gain experience in conducting literature reviews, research design, data analysis, and scientific writing. Current projects include examining the well-being impacts of engaging with visual art and using large government data sets to understand cultural engagement and well-being.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent) and PSYC 2400 or PSYC 3400 preferred, though not required

Semester: There is availability for one semester projects Spring 2025. There are no one semester projects available for Fall 2024.

 

Mentored Research in Digital Mental Health

Mentor: Heather Nuske

Description: I am looking for a bright, creative, committed student with initiative (or two) to work on a pilot project of a digital mental health platform, KeepCalm (https://www.digitalmentalhealth.org/keep-calm), an implementation tool which integrates ongoing wearable biosensing (heart rate tracking) with tailored messaging and evidence-based strategy resources to support emotion regulation and reduce challenging behavior in children on the autism spectrum. This project provides the opportunity to contribute to valuable research in the digital mental health field as an early-career scientist, and will involve: 1) Processing of quantitative and qualitative data relating to the development of the KeepCalm app, 2) Support to write/lead a peer-reviewed publication from the project (your PSYC4998 thesis), 3) Other administrative duties, and 4) Joining a Digital Mental Health @ Penn working group where you will learn more about digital mental health methods and research happening at Penn. You can read more about my work and the Penn Center for Mental Health here: https://www.digitalmentalhealth.org/ https://hosting.med.upenn.edu/cmh/people/heather-nuske/ https://hosting.med.upenn.edu/cmh/ If you are interested in working on the project as part of the PSYC4998 Mentored Research program, please email heather.nuske@pennmedicine.upenn.edu with answers to the following questions: 1) What makes you a good fit for the project? 2) Do you have research experience? 3) Can you do a 2-semester PSYC4998 Independent Study program from Spring 2023-Fall 2023?

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent)

Semester:  2-semester project only

 

Mentored Research in the neurobiology of social decision making

Mentor: Michael L Platt

Description: The Platt lab tries to understand what makes us human, how we think, and why we do the things we do, and how we can use this knowledge to both improve human health and enhance business decisions. These complex questions call for a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach, and the depth and diversity of our research reflect this commitment. In our lab you will have the opportunity to learn various techniques, such as psychophysics, EEG, fMRI, eye tracking, and pupillometry in humans, single-unit electrophysiology and causal manipulations of neural activity in non-human primates, primatology, neuropsychiatry, genomics, biostatistics, and computational modeling, among other things. You will help us continuously push neuroscience into the real world, i.e. societies of not only humans but also non-human primates, and ask important, meaningful, and highly rewarding questions, such as: What makes us connect with other people? How is intimacy developed and shared among people? How is a social network formed? How do our mental states shape our decisions? Do we understand what other people think of ourselves? Do our brains look different when we decide to compete with each other rather than cooperate? How can we quantify consumer experience directly? How do our brains relate to brands and how can we use that information to improve customer loyalty? What is the source, if any, of collective effervescence in social experiences? Is social support a neuroprotective factor for chronic stress? How does stress from environmental disasters impact aging signatures in the brain? Do our brains reflect the interactions we have with other living organisms both within and outside our bodies? How do social connections, the gut, and inflammation interact to affect the brain? How do genetic variants affect gene regulation in a tissue-specific manner?    Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent)

Semester: Fall, spring, and one-year projects all available, with preference for one-year.

 

Mentored Research in Social, Cultural, and Decision Psychology

Mentor: Paul Rozin

Description:  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); Cultural aspects of the relation of people to food; Why people readily identify with fictional characters; The psychology of music. Research participation can be accomplished as a volunteer or for academic credit. Usually students complete 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 one quarter of these projects end up as publications with the student as an author. 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): PSYC 0001, STAT 1110 (or its equivalent)

Semester: Fall, Spring, or full-year starting in Fall or Spring

 

Mentored Research in Clinical Psychology:  Anxiety and Depression

Mentor: 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): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); PSYC 1462 (Abnormal Psychology)

Other Requirements:  Permission of the instructor; for more information about our lab, please see: https://web.sas.upenn.edu/ruscio-lab/ 

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

 

Mentored Research in Learning and Memory

Mentor: Anna Schapiro

Description: Some moments in our lives provide information that is useful in itself, but other information is most meaningful when combined across many instances, as we come to understand the regularities in the world. How do we extract such structured knowledge from our environment? Answering this question requires an understanding of the initial acquisition of this information as well as its stabilization and integration with existing knowledge structures over time and with sleep. Our research combines neural network modeling and empirical methods (fMRI, EEG, MEG, behavior) to uncover learning algorithms and principles of how memories of regularities in the environment come to be represented throughout the brain. Independent study projects could involve design, data collection, and/or data analysis of sleep experiments, behavioral experiments, neuroimaging experiments, and/or computational modeling.  PSYC 4998 students are typically directly supervised by a postdoctoral research associate or graduate student. Due to the nature of the lab's research, it is not feasible to develop individual studies, execute them, and analyze the data all within the one-year time frame of a 4998.  Therefore, students typically join an ongoing study. Students work in a team with other lab members and are guided on how to take ownership of a data analysis project.  Students attend weekly lab meetings led by Dr. Schapiro, attend team project-based meetings with Dr. Schapiro and other students and postdoctoral research associates working on the same project, and meet individually with Dr. Schapiro at least once a semester and upon request.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent)

Semester: One-year projects only.

Currently, Dr. Schapiro is accepting up to two undergraduate students in her lab for mentored research.

 

Mentored Research in Positive Psychology

Mentor: Martin Seligman

Description: We study positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment.  PERMA, in short.  We also study Agency---the belief that I can do good things in the world—across Cultures, Groups, and History (e.g., China, Islam, Civil Rights in America, Female Best-selling Novelists) We also study primal beliefs about the world, e.g., the world is alive. Our current projects include positive education, prospection, creativity, 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): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent)

Semester:  One-year projects available 

 

Mentored Research in Primal World Beliefs

Mentor: Martin Seligman and Jeremy Clifton.  Please contact Rive Cadwallader (rcad@sas.upenn.edu) if interested.

Description: Please contact Rive Cadwallader (rcad@sas.upenn.edu)for availabillity.

 

Mentored Research in Computational Perception and Cognition

Mentor: 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): STAT 1110 (or any other higher level math course); PSYC 111 or PSYC 151 or PSYC 217 (requirement only for psychology majors)

Other Requirements: MATLAB programming (but see above)

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

 

Mentored Research in Human Language Learning

Mentor: Daniel Swingley

Description:  We study how learning in infancy forms the basis for language acquisition in childhood.  Recent projects have taken various approaches, including (1) analysis of corpora of maternal speech; (2) experiments testing adults' learning aspects of English or another language; (3) computational studies 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, and statistics.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); at least one course in linguistics, cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience, cognitive development, perception, or computer science. Ideally, some knowledge of R, python, matlab, or any other programming language.

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

 

Mentored Research in Judgment and Decision Making

Mentor: Philip Tetlock

Professor Phil Tetlock is the author of “Superforecasting” that summarizes many years of work devoted to helping professionals in a variety of fields become more skilled at putting realistic probabilities on possible futures: from wars to economic recessions to crime rates to climate change to pandemics.

He is looking for students in psychology and other fields to work with him on new research projects, with opportunities for co-authorship for especially motivated researchers. Professor Tetlock has published widely in many journals with many former students—so this is a serious offer (https://mgmt.wharton.upenn.edu/profile/tetlock/)

 

PSYC 4998 Option #1: Independent Study in "Intellectual Humility"

Description: Are some people better able to engage in constructive and respectful political dialogue than others? And if so, can this ability be taught or reinforced? This research program is exploring how intellectual humility and other epistemic virtues contribute to constructive political dialogue and will explore potential interventions for improving individuals’ abilities to engage in constructive political dialogue. Students will learn how to design methods and interventions to measure and improve individual differences in intellectual humility and openness to diverse perspectives. Students will be involved in all stages of research including design, implementation, analysis and write-up. Data will be analyzed in STATA or SPSS under guidance from the instructor. Data analysis methods may include t-tests, ANOVAs, chi-square tests, correlations, and regressions.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent) Semester: Fall, Spring, or one-year projects available. 

 

PSYC 4998 Option #2: Independent Study in "Scientific Decision-making"

Description: How do editors of science journals decide which papers to publish, reject, and retract? Are there are scientific practices currently in use that many science editors consider illegitimate? Can we improve scientific decision making? This research program is going behind the scenes of science to better understand the decision-making process in publishing scientific papers. Students will learn about the culture of scientific publishing, and students will learn how to code interview data and design and implement survey procedures. Students will be involved in all stages of research including design, implementation, analysis and write-up. Data will be analyzed in STATA or SPSS under guidance from the instructor. Data analysis methods may include t-tests, ANOVAs, chi-square tests, correlations, and regressions

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent)

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

 

 

PSYC 4998 Option #3: Independent Study in "Improving Human Judgment"

Description: Do you ever wonder who on the news really knows what they are talking about - when they make predictions about the economy, elections, social trends, even sports? This research program will give students an opportunity to develop tools for improving the accuracy for social and political judgments (training tools that will be of use to professionals in fields as diverse as education, management, finance and intelligence anaylsis). Students will be involved in all stages of research includuing design, implementation, analysis and write-up. Data will be analyzed in STATA or SPSS under guidance from the instructor. Data analysis method may include t-tests, ANOVAs, chi-square tests, correlations, and regressions.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent)

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

 

PSYC 4998 Option #4: Independent Study in "Scoping out the Boundaries of the Unthinkable

Description: Studying Judgments of Which Hypotheses in Psychological Science Should Be Off-Limits on Moral-Political Grounds " Description: Should some categories of psychological hypotheses be ruled off-limits? Which categories? Who makes the judgements? On what grounds? And what should the consequence of violating the rules be? We will design exploratory surveys and conduct experiments that assess how observers, with widely varying views, see these issues across all areas of psychology (gender, race relations, animal consciousness, inequality,...). Students will be involved in all stages of research includuing design, implementation, analysis and write-up. Data will be analyzed in STATA or SPSS under guidance from the instructor. Data analysis method may include t-tests, ANOVAs, chi-square tests, correlations, and regressions.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent)

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

 

PSYC 4998 Option #5: Independent Study in "The Relationship between Research Quality and Political Slant of Research"

Description: Professor Philip Tetlock and Dr. Cory Clark are looking for up to four PSYC 4998 students to participate in a research project exploring the relationship between research quality and political slant of research. In other words, are there differences between liberal-friendly research findings (e.g., findings that suggest that liberals are more cognitively flexible than conservatives) and conservative-friendly research findings (e.g., findings that suggest that meritocracies are associated with higher productivity) in how robust and replicable those findings are an how often those papers get cited? Students will be involved in various aspects of the research, including conducting literature searches, buliding a dataset of articles, coding articles along various dimensions, and identifying relevant effect size statistics and other quality indicators. The dataset will be built as a team, but you will be able to select among different predictor and outcome variables for your analysis and paper under the supervision of Professor Tetlock and Dr. Clark. All required skills will be taught, but familiarity with Google Scholar is preferred. If interested, please contact Dr. Clark at cjclark@sas.upenn.edu.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent)

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

 

Mentored Research in Human Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience

Mentor: 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, R, 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): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); PSYC 1310 or PSYC 1230

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

 

Mentored Research in Human Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience

Mentor: Sharon Thompson-Schill

Description: What comes to your mind when you think of a typical cup, and what is its relation to the individual cups you have seen and remembered? How human learners extract generalities from individual instances in long-term memory is a fundamental question in cognitive science and sleep has a critical role in this process. The objective of this independent study is to give the student experience in the psychological methods to examine the role of sleep in the extraction of generalities (like the typical cup), including experiment development, data collection with targeted memory reactivation during sleep, and analysis. The student is expected to read and discuss past literature on memory and sleep, complete writing, assignments, and assist in preparing, administering, and analyzing experiments. For more information about the lab, see http://www.psych.upenn.edu/stslab/

Pre-requisite(s): Experience with Javascript, Matlab, or R is recommended but not required. Introductory coursework in Psychology and Statistics is recommended, but not required.

Semester: Fall & Spring. Time commitment: 10 hours per week. Specific meeting times: Flexible, but weekly lab meeting attendance required: Wednesdays 1-3 pm.

Day-to-day supervisor: Tima Zeng (hzen@sas.upenn.edu)

 

Mentored Research in the Psychology of Language

Mentor: 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): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); PSYC 151 or PSYC 149 or COGS 101/PSYC 207

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

 

Mentored Research in Understanding the socioemotional and physiological correlates of empathy, aggression, and childhood behavior problems

Mentor: Rebecca Waller

Description: We are currently carrying out  the Family And Child Emotion Socialization (FACES) study, which is designed to explore the socioemotional mechanisms that underpin risk for aggression and childhood behavior problems, including by impacting children’s development of empathy. We bring 3-10 year olds into the lab with their parent and conduct a rigorous 3 ½ hour study protocol that includes a variety of questionnaire, observational, electronic, eye-tracking, and physiological paradigms. Undergraduate RAs directly oversee running of study visits and 4998 students can plan research studies using available FACES data from across a wide range of domains within clinical and developmental psychological science. RAs gain training in the following hardware and software programs: Noldus, Media Recorder, Eyelink, Biopac, SPSS, R, and Mplus. See www.upennedenlab.com for more information.

Prerequisite(s): STAT 1110 (or its equivalent); and PSYC 1462 or PSYC 1777

Semester: Only one-year projects available, preference to those who have volunteered in the lab already and to those with weekend flexibility (when we run participants)