New research in obesity prevention class presents research during psychology coaster night

The University of Connecticut’s PSYC 2100WQ (Principles of Research) and PSYC 3885 (Research in Obesity Prevention) gathered in the Bousfield Psychology Building to share their research projects and results on Wednesday night.

PSYC 3885 was a brand new class lasting the entire academic year; and subsequently, this is the first time PSYC 3885 students have joined PSYC 2100WQ students in presenting their research.

PSYC 3885, Research in Obesity Prevention, allows students to explore the reality of obesity in a real-world setting, giving them the resources to test hypotheses that might contribute to combatting the obesity problem.

PSYC 2100WQ, Principles of Research, allows students to design and complete a psychological research experiment. Students do group work throughout the semester in order to design and carry out their projects, and present their projects in the form of a poster at the conclusion of the semester. The class has been a laboratory requirement for undergraduate psychology majors for over 25 years.

An array of diverse experiments lined the Bousfield Atrium, with students eager to talk about their results. Professors and non-research students alike came out to view the presentations.

A group of students from PSYC 2100WQ conducted a study entitled, Trust Issues and Trust Falls: What Comes First? The group consisted of Amelia Suberbi, a 2nd-semester transfer psychology major; Etta Copenhagen, a 4th-semester cognitive neuroscience major; and Jamie Dolce, a 4th-semester psychology major.

The project measured the gender aspect of gaining the trust of others by first filling out a survey about trust tendencies, and then having complete strangers perform trust falls with each other. Differences in the trust falls were measured with all participants.

“For me, this experiment was very eye-opening because I’ve never been a part of the process of designing and literally starting from scratch,” Siberbi said.

Copenhagen said collecting the data was a lot more difficult than she thought it would be. Although the team had a flood of participants join their experiment, she said she didn’t expect it to be so hard to explain the experiment to people who didn’t know it as well as they did.

Another experiment, entitled, Spoodle’s Control: A Measure of Portion Size and Food Selection, was conducted by PSYC 3885 students Tenzin Yanden, an 8th-semester psychology major, and Joan Daniel, a 6th-semester psychology/biology double major.

The study measured the perception of portion sizes in college students over a period of six weeks, using a spoodle: a serving utensil that yields a four ounce serving size with one scoop. Yellow signs denoting the spoodle were placed on the top shelf of South Dining Hall’s station, where the consumption of pasta and mashed potatoes were tested, said Yanden.

The researchers then conducted an exit survey, where they asked students leaving the dining hall questions regarding the spoodle and their portion sizes during the meal.

“A lot of (students) could not answer the question ‘what is a spoodle?’” Tanden said.

While their results did not support their hypothesis that the spoodle would reduce portion size, further studies in this subject should be conducted in smaller, more controlled populations, Danice said.

“This project showed me how to do research, and the struggles along the way, and it was definitely very good research experience in the long run,” Danice said.

The team didn’t expect all of the obstacles they would face, and it was a good lesson that can also be carried into other areas of life in general, Tanden said.

One PSYC 2100WQ study entitled, Self-Monitoring and Gender Differences, was conducted by Alexis Fernandes, Emma McMahon and Connor Breslin, all 6th-semester psychology majors.

The study measured how self-monitoring while answering questions anonymously versus answering them face-to-face was affected by gender. The results showed no statistically significant difference between females and males in the categories, not supporting their hypothesis that females would be more likely to self-monitor.

The participants for the experiment were received on a voluntary basis, yielding two times the amount of females than males. The equality of the results might’ve had something to do with the fact that all the participants were college students, Fernandes said.

Another PSYC 3885 group conducted an experiment, entitled #WeTakeTheStairs. The researchers included Kate Boudreau, a 4th-semester psychology/PNB double major; Haley Garbus, an 8th-semester psychology major; Julio Murillo, an 8th-semester psychology major; and Julia Werth, a 4th-semester nutritional sciences/journalism double major and Daily Campus News Editor.

The experiment consisted of two school-spirited posters, one put near the stairs in each tower of Buckley Residence Hall. The first poster contained a photo related to the UConn men’s basketball team with a quote not pertaining to health, while the other poster did – also labeled with Kevin Ollie’s quote “We Take the Stairs.” The goal of the experiment was to measure how these posters affected the amount of students that took the stairs. The result showed an increase for males and no effect to a slight decrease for females.

“We’ve just gained an appreciation for how complex the obesity problem is,” Boudreau said. “Starting with something as simple as trying to increase peoples’ stair usage – obviously we still have a problem – but it’s a step in the right direction to try to change (obesity).”

Amy Gorin, Associate Professor in UConn’s Psychology department who taught the PSYC 3885 course, said that it allowed her to get to know students and watch their progression; and it allowed the students to learn community-based topics in a very real setting.

“This was unlike any other teaching experience I’ve had,” Mobley said. “Students got to see the issue (of obesity) from multiple sides, and rather than lectures and statistics, but actually hands-on experience, trying to make a difference.”

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