Guest Post: EEG, Eye-Tracking, and Evaluation: Finding a way into Psychology

Last week, Lora, a student from Year 12 at a local sixth form, visited me in the Department. I asked her to blog about her experiences. This is what she said:

I decided to search for work experience in Psychology because it is a new and exciting subject for me that I have found extremely interesting to study throughout my first year of Sixth Form. I am also considering taking on Psychology at university next year, so I felt that this experience would be valuable.

Monday

Today was my first day and I had a mixture of nerves and excitement, the latter proving more dominant. After asking several people how to find my way to the correct building, floor and office, I was successfully directed to Siân. Once there I: introduced myself, was given my very own work-space (a whole room in fact) and was shown the rest of the department.

My first task of the day involved 48 questionnaires for a visit to school tomorrow. I had to fold, staple, sort and proof-read (correcting any errors I found) . Two of the piles did not have a specified condition on the front, so Sian gave me the job of working this out. Now, I hadn’t finished quite yet as I needed to have two piles (one male, one female) of questionnaires and they needed to be randomly sorted. Another task I had to do was create an Excel document and write out all the questions. Not such a mammoth task seeing as the questions were the same. Accomplishment – a feeling which was felt on numerous occasions throughout the week.

Other things I got out of the day involved: reading social development papers, obtaining two massive, free text-books, because there was a departmental book clear-out, and beginning to use and get to know the statistics program SPSS. Nice people, a nice subject and free resources to keep – what a nice way to start off the week.

Tuesday

child school

Image from brookes.ac.uk/psychology

This morning I continued to help Siân input data she had collected the previous week into SPSS. Fortunately, we managed to finish this before we set off to collect more data. The primary school may have been local, but the commute took us about one hour. We arrived in plenty of time so that we could set up in ease and I could be given instructions on what I was to do. The children filled out the questionnaires very quietly and the school made us feel welcome. In my opinion, the classtime and the day were successful.

Wednesday

eyetrackThe day that Siân and I managed to input all of the data from the previous day into SPSS –accomplishment, once again. After this I was lucky enough to participate in an experiment for a postgraduate student’s research project. The experiment involved a structured interview, filling out questionnaires and then several stages of activities. The project focused on the link between ‘Eye Contact and Social Anxiety’, (i.e. some research suggests that people with high levels of social anxiety make less direct eye contact than people without social anxiety).

Later on in the day I attended a departmental seminar which took form of an IT workshop on Open Access and the REF. If I have to be honest, all the information didn’t really make sense to me because it was something I had never come across. So, halfway through, I migrated to reading Siân’s online blog. And here you are reading my first piece which has been published online.

My final job of the day was to make a start on sorting out a massive pile of evaluation forms from the Friendship Workshops that Siân had conducted in 2014 and 2015 so that they were ready for data input.

Thursday

On Thursday morning I attended Siân’s “Shut Up and Write” session. This session is a great way to be productive by just sitting down and getting on with your work, in silence. I occupied myself in drafting a Methods section for the research we did in school on Tuesday. Siân was kind enough to lend me her PhD for the session so that I was able to use the method section as a template. I was also given a whistle-stop tour on how to use SPSS to  get basic statistics. We were particularly interested in the means, standard deviations, and correlations.

Moreover, we had lunch with Sarah and several other colleagues from the Psychology Department – everyone was really friendly. And for the rest of the day I continued work on the hundreds and hundreds of evaluation forms, and I managed to finish this job! Need I say the feeling again? (Hint: the word begins with an A.)

Friday

Image from brookes.ac.uk/psychology

Image from brookes.ac.uk/psychology

My last day. The week has flown by. But as idioms go, time flies when you’re having fun. A good sign, surely. And I will be back again at the end of next week with my school in order to attend the Psychology conference. They haven’t got rid of me that fast!

So, for my last day, as Sian was away at a conference, I was cared for by the lovely Sarah and met even more colleagues. I was able to write this blog piece, do some transcribing and visit the EEG lab. Transcription consumes a lot time. One has to listen to the audio file, type what each speaker is saying, listen carefully to understand what they are saying and do this hundreds and hundreds of times. I had a go at one today and I didn’t even get through the full file. The interview was about 35 minutes long and I only got through 10 minutes! I guess it’s not too bad for my first go, but I didn’t get that full accomplishment feeling…

EEG stands for electroencephalogram. It is where the brain’s activity is recorded to help diagnose or manage certain conditions. Brian cells continuously send one another messages and signals that can be picked up as small electrical impulses from the scalp. This process of picking up and recording the impulses is known as an EEG. I was shown the swimming-hat-net-like-cap, made up of electrodes, which a participant would wear. Apparently, baby shampoo is put on the participant’s scalp in order to aid conductivity. How bizarre. However, the procedure is painless and the participant should feel comfortable throughout.

Overall, this week has been a valuable experience that I’m sure I will never forget. I really do appreciate everything that was done for me. The week has shown me the opportunities that await me and things I could be doing in future. For anyone reading this that enjoys Psychology and is considering the subject, I highly recommend doing work experience in this field. So that’s it for this blog piece. I hope it has been as successful as my week…

Very well-accomplished, blog-post, Lora – you’d make an excellent blogger in Psychology, if you fancy that later on…. I should also say that Lora was fantastically helpful to me in getting us ready for school, remembering things when we were at school, and in dealing with the aftermath of the visit. She also reminded me why I love working in Psychology so much. Here’s to the next generation of students …

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