My Experience as a Research Participant
As a first-year psychology student, I am encouraged to take part in psychology research being conducted at the university. In exchange for my time spent as a study participant I get a specified amount of extra credit towards my final mark in my psychology classes. Besides the surface value of taking part in research, which helps studies gain participants, undergrad students learn how studies are conducted firsthand.
Psychology research is not what you likely think it is. Thanks to pop culture and the media, you would probably expect taking part in an experiment to include empty blank rooms, one-way glass windows, and scary looking equipment, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The hardest part (which isn’t even hard) is finding the office or lab the study is assigned to. During my first study at the Neuroeconomics lab in the McKinnon building, I got lost trying to find the staircase to get to a floor below the basement. Many studies also take place at the Cornett building which is known for feeling like a maze. Fun fact: there are rumors that two architects were hired to design it but created two very different blueprints; others argue that it was built to resemble the human mind. Personally I think it’s just a cool building.
Once you find the office or lab you’ll be given a consent form stating that this experiment like all others has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Board, that you can withdraw from the experiment at any point without question or penalty and with full compensation, that the data you contribute isn’t stored with any information that can identify you, as well as any risks to you however minimal they may seem. These can include slight scratching from the tape used for EEGs, eye strain from looking at a computer screen, and one that I surprised me the most: boredom.
After signing, the research assistant will give you instructions. Usually, they’re simple such as pressing a button for one color and a different button for another or saying the name of the object on screen while data is recorded about your response. During this time, you may also be fitted with a wearable piece of equipment such as an EEG cap, which is used for measuring activity in different areas of the brain. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to wear any of the EEG equipment yet.
Next is the actual participation. I find that time flies when I’m in a study.
After you’re finished, you have a short debriefing where you’re given more information about the study, reminded of what you should expect for compensation of your time, and then you’re on your way.
Being a research participant is not scary; instead it can be a productive yet fun experience, not to mention the lab assistants and researchers are super nice. UVic is always running studies in many departments, which makes it easy to help a researcher advance a field just by giving some of your time.
Feature photo by Lukas via Pexels