The Department of Sociologys Group Processes Laboratory conducts social science experiments conceptualized, designed and carried out by undergraduate and graduate students working closely with faculty members. These students and faculty also study and publish the resulting data to share the findings with the academic community and the public.
Research participants are primarily undergraduate student volunteers, who are paid for their time. The lab is directed by Professor Jeff Lucas, who also teaches courses on social psychology, research methods, group processes and leadership.
The lab has expanded in both scope and stature in recent years, moving from Tawes Hall to a new lab in the Art-Sociology Building, which opened in 2007. Because of the success and significance of its experiments and resulting findings, research in the Group Processes Laboratory has been funded by grants from agencies including the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health.
Professor Lucas said the labs work is so successful in part because of the loyalty and continued involvement of its student researchers.
We have a model in which new students come in the first semester, participate in running studies and developing projects, and then serve as mentors for incoming students the next semester. At that point, the original students are also conducting independent research. Undergraduate students often return to the lab as volunteers even after their for-credit service is over. It is exciting to see their engagement and enthusiasm as they become invested in the projects Professor Lucas said.
Amanda Nguyen took an independent study in the lab as an undergraduate and has remained involved since she received her Bachelors Degree in sociology in December 2013. Amanda said, It was exciting to become actively involved in research as an undergraduate. When I graduated, I asked Professor Lucas if I could stay on in the lab. It has been rewarding this semester to mentor undergraduate students and also to see projects that were only ideas when I started in the lab begin to produce exciting data. Kamilah Wakil, a junior sociology major in her first semester in the lab, said, What I like most about my experience in the lab is the ability to become intellectually involved in projects. The other undergraduate students and I arent just collecting or coding data. We are designing studies and making decisions about how we will get the data.
Students involved in the lab are divided into research teams around particular projects. These teams are usually three students, often two undergraduates and one graduate student. The project teams meet with faculty as their projects move forward, and they bring their progress to larger lab meetings to report results and get feedback from other lab members. Current research in the lab includes projects examining how economic recessions might lead to different behaviors among women and men, how the extent to which people feel competent or incompetent in a situation affects how strictly they follow rules and guidelines, and whether how difficult a text is to understand affects how important people think it is.