Summer 2013: Psychology Research Assistant at UNCby Bill Williamson
Summer 2013: Psychology Research Assistant at UNC
William Williamson, Centre College, Class 2014
The Mind Perception and Morality
Lab, under the direction of Prof. Kurt
Gray, is in the Department of Psychology
at the University of North Carolina, Chapel
Hill. The lab investigates moral judgments
and how people perceive the minds of
others. Linking mind perception and
morality can help explain why people
debate torture, why they believe in God
and how good (and evil) deeds can make
people physically more powerful. Research
conducted by MPM lab members has been
featured in the New York Times, the
Economist, the National Post, Harvard
Magazine, the Boston Globe and at two
Project One: Evolution Support
It seems that people who disagree with evolution are not necessarily against
the evolution of the human body but the human mind. When primed to
think about our physical similarities with other primate subjects are more
likely to agree with evolution than when subjects are primed to think about
our mental similarities.
This summer I worked with Dr. Kurt Gray at the Mind Perception and Morality Lab
at UNC Chapel Hill. I participated in experimental design , data collection and data
analysis for a number of projects. I also designed my own study that was carried out at
the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly. I gained research experience, which is
invaluable for admission into psychology graduate programs. Furthermore this summer
I combined my interests in both religion and psychology. I want to be a counselor and a
minster, and this summer I studied information that will be invaluable to this career. I
was also able to practice leadership through running labs. This meant that I was taking
lead on data collection, participant control, and data analysis. Personally helped my own
development by allowing me to really see what makes up the psychology of religion as
well as determine that I do not want to do research as a career.
I was able to have my own project this summer. To enhance my study of
religious psychology I wanted to study Unitarian Universalists because they
are a small population that rarely get representative samples in major
psychological studies. I designed my own survey with questions based on
questions asked in Pew and Gallop polls as well as based on the morality
research at the lab. In order to access this population I went to General
Assembly (GA), the UU annual conference, held this year in Louisville. GA
was the best opportunity to access a diverse group of Unitarian Universalists.
Kurt Gray, the lab’s supervising professor completed his undergrad at the University
of Waterloo and his PhD at Harvard. Unsurprisingly given the title of the lab, he is
interested in mind perception and morality. He would hold lab meetings and help plan
Chelsea Schein is a graduate student investigating morality and mind perception and
studying how these judgments vary across time and different targets. She also
researches moral behavior, for instance, what factors make people less likely to cheat.
She handled the day to day affairs of the lab and was my primary boss.
Participants: Ninety-five GA attendees were surveyed. The majority
were Unitarian Universalists.
Materials: A thirty-eight question survey primarily made of
Procedure: Surveys were collected everywhere but the best spots were at
big events such as rallies. The Surveys were also collected at meals and at the
Project Two: Morals & Steroids
Although people say they are morally against performance enhancing drugs
(PED) it seems that this is not entirely true. There does seem to be a moral
rule against PEDs when a person is competing against a user. However when
competing as a part of a team with a user the moral imperative switches to
favoring PEDs because it will help the team.
Age of Respondents
Importance of __ in Converting
Project Three: Placement of Blame and Praise.
Do You Consider Yourself
Not at All to Extremely
It appears that people place praise at the nearest actor and blame follows the
chain of command. Ex: A well behaved child is a “good” child. A
misbehaved child has “bad” parents.
Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree
This summer I helped with different parts of several projects. I designed surveys, ran
participants, researched literature reviews, collected data, and analyzed data. The three
skills I became the best at were literature research, survey creation and survey
collection. I know how to use databases far more than before in academic research. I am
also an expert on Qualtics, software that helps create surveys. Although I did get out of
the lab to collect data most of the summer was spent in front of a computer.
Strongly Disagree to Stongly Agree
Morality is Objective
Morality of an Action is
Dependent on the Action Itself
There are Clear Guidelines of
what is Good and Evil
Personal Religious Beliefs Faith is Large Part of Identity
External Importance of
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