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?

4 thoughts on “Have You Ever Participated in a Psychology Research Study?”

  1. I did a few in college, some for small amounts of money when I was a broke 18 year old and others to fulfill a requirement for the intro to psychology class I was taking a few years later. I never really questioned their true motivations for what they were asking me to do, but some of them did seem pretty odd. I tried to impress regardless, just because it’s in my personality to do so.

  2. It’s surprising to me that they didn’t have to tell you the purpose of the study at the end! That’s been a standard requirement of ethics committees for psychology research with human subjects for a long, long time.

  3. Don’t most people feel that some questions from their significant others are often like psychology test where you don’t know what they are really after? 😉

  4. Kyle: I think they did tell me the purpose (something about retaining numbers), but it was only yesterday that I wondered if that were the real purpose. But it sounds like they’re not allowed to do that?

    Conor: I’ve definitely had that experience. 🙂


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