- Getting Started
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- Finding a Faculty Mentor
- Research Peer Advisors
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- Undergraduate Research Journals
Participating in the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship was an invaluable experience. Initially, I was ecstatic to browse through the various options available for research and I was amazed at the range of disciplines available at Penn. Dr. Joseph Kable’s lab conducts research in human decision-making and the developing field of Neuroeconomics. My research this summer revolved around subjective probability and understanding humans’ ability to incorporate probabilities into their decisions and thus behave according to their understanding of those probabilities. This study involved concepts and techniques that I had never before encountered and was eager to learn. My first task as a research assistant was to read up on relevant studies that served as background research and develop a foundation from which I was able to help produce and conduct an experiment. I, suddenly, was immersed in a world of academia that fascinated me. I was able to learn more about a broad range of topics related to decision making and probability than I could have learned in any other forum.
Developing the experiment was the next new experience for me. I was taught how to program on Matlab to create an experiment that can be run on human subjects via computer. I have never had any programming experience, nor had I had any opportunity to create my own experiment. The members of the lab were helpful and guided me until I was able to do some programming on my own. I gained a sense of comfort with new tasks that seemed intimidating, such as programming. I also gained a sense of what it means to conduct research with human subjects, the ethics involved in this process, and how to interact with subjects so as to protect results from biases.
The most complicated, and probably the most valuable, thing I learned from my summer experience was how to analyze data and express results in the most direct and comprehensible way. The project I worked on involved studying how human subjects behave in a betting task with a volatile statistical environment. Each subject experienced two different conditions of probability. In one condition, the probability of a reward occurring grew with time since a reward, and in the other, the probability decreased with time since a reward. We measured the subjects’ responses as their subjective probability and were able to see if human subjects respond appropriately to objective statistical cues.
The results were fascinating and my understanding of human decision making and probabilities expanded. I was able to understand the factors that influenced the subjects’ behavior and understand the psychological mechanisms at work. This work was fascinating to me and I am eager to continue research that involves human behavior and decision making in some form. PURM was an enriching program for me and I was able to use it as a stepping stone for further research, and I now continue to work in the Kable Lab, and have embarked on an academic career that revolves around classes having to do with the human mind, behavior, and psychology.