Social Vision and Perception Lab
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Kelley Gaffney

Major: Criminology/Psychology
Hometown: Allentown, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I had applied for the Erickson grant and was not awarded it and thus began researching on my own for other opportunities. After receiving several emails about Enrichment Funding for internships I looked into it and discovered it could also be used for research and thus applied for the grant.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

During this experience, I went into my lab on a weekly basis or completed the tasks on my own to finish the experiment so that we will be able to run it on a participant pool of Psychology 100 students in the Fall. I started by expanding the literature that I had on the conceptual idea so that more background knowledge could be obtained. I then looked into the scales that I planned to test the participants on to see how highly they scored on Dark Triad Traits, these were the Mach IV, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory-40, and the Levenson’s Self-Report Psychopathy Scale. These scales were then reverse correlated and coded into an experiment. Then, with the assistance of my grad student I chose neutral faces to include in the experiment as those that were rated on a 7-point Likert scale for their emotional residue regarding either happy or angry emotions. Additionally, I used faces from Dr. Holtzman Faceaurus database. I used the faces of those high and low on dark triad traits and asked how much these faces seemed to represent these dark triad traits. This concluded the creation of the experiment and it was tested and thus ready to run in the coming weeks when the Fall semester begins.

It pushed me to learn how to create a functioning experiment which is a skill that I previously knew nothing about.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This experience impacted me academically because it pushed me to learn how to create a functioning experiment which is a skill that I previously knew nothing about. I was able to learn about the different computer systems I used and how to program my scales into them. I was also able to insert neutral faces and allow participants to choose from different options and have the data recorded. This was all knowledge that I previously did not have. Additionally, I expanded my understanding of the research behind the Dark Triad traits and behind neutral faces and emotional residue. I was familiar with these topics due to creating the conceptual idea of this experiment but gained a much deeper knowledge through the literature research that this research allowed me to investigate.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

My career goals and plans are to be in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and work in the Behavioral analysis unit, or work in a similar position somewhere in the government. This experience impacted that because the study of the dark triad allowed me to learn more about traits such as narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. These are all disorders that I feel would strongly relate to my field and be studied by those in the field quite frequently. In addition, learning how they react to neutral faces and their accuracy at identifying emptions in these faces is something that could be used in research of the behavior of criminals. Overall I feel that this experiment relates directly to my future line of work that I hope to be in.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would certainly recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts student. Having the grant money allowed me to research something that I previously would not have been able to create an experiment for and collect data on. I feel that it was a application process that was easy to complete and any questions I had were easily answered. Overall this is a valued experience that has advanced me in many different areas.

For more information on research for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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