Have You Ever Participated in a Psychology Research Study?

student9Today I was talking to a friend about some psych classes she took in college, and a random memory surfaced for me.

I took an introductory psychology course in college, and as part of the participation credit, we had to volunteer for a few research studies run by upperclassmen.

My specific memory is sitting in a small room with a very attractive woman who read 7-digit numbers to me. After a brief pause, I had to type the number into computer.

At the time, I assumed they were studying a person’s ability to retain 7-digit numbers (apparently the human brain is very good at remembering 7-digit numbers, plus/minus 2 digits. That’s one of the reasons phone numbers are 7 digits).

But tonight it occurred to me that they may have been studying something completely different, like:

  • How long will this guy type numbers into a computer before he asks to leave?
  • If we lower the temperature, does that affect his ability to remember these numbers?
  • By having the guy repeat a bunch of phone numbers, does it increase the chances he’ll ask for the attractive lady’s phone number at the end of the session?
  • Will this guy remember numbers better if he’s trying to impress the attractive lady reading the numbers?

I seriously wonder if the last one is what was actually happening. Even if it wasn’t, that seems like an interesting study to implement. If you’re trying to impress someone, do you perform better? Or worse?

What do you think? And have you ever participated in a research study where you realized afterward that they were probably studying something completely different than what they told you?