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Summer 2013: Psychology Research Assistant at UNC by Bill Williamson


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Summer 2013: Psychology Research Assistant at UNC by Bill Williamson

  1. 1. 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 TED events. Lab Projects 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. Abstract Personal Project 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. Lab Personnel 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 research projects. 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. Method Participants: Ninety-five GA attendees were surveyed. The majority were Unitarian Universalists. Materials: A thirty-eight question survey primarily made of Likert scale questions. 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 exhibit hall. Project Two: Morals & Steroids Results 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 7 31% 40% Importance of __ in Converting 6 16-29 30-59 Project Three: Placement of Blame and Praise. 60-89 29% 90 80 70 Do You Consider Yourself a ... 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. 5 16-29 4 30-59 60-89 3 60 50 40 2 30 20 10 1 0 Clergy Spirtual Person Yes Family Theology 5 Friends Moral Questions Faith Importance 4.5 4.5 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. Political/Social Views No 5 My Job Liturgy Religious Person 4 3.5 16-29 3 30-59 2.5 60-89 2 1.5 Strongly Disagree to Stongly Agree The Lab 4 3.5 16-29 3 30-59 2.5 60-89 2 1.5 1 1 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 are Important External Importance of Religious Identity