Fechner Day program puts psychology students to the test

Christopher Sanchez, right, a junior psychology major, explains a test to classmate Katie Lupardi.

Oct. 22, 2013 - Things are not always what they seem.

That was certainly true as the Center for Psychological Research, 485 Sherman Ave., hosted its third annual Fechner Day program featuring a Museum of Psychological Science on Oct. 22.

Psychology students led and took part in a series of interactive exhibits and demonstrations that tested such things as perception, attention, memory, social interactions, decision-making, problem solving and comprehension.

"We convert the center into an interactive science museum," said event organizer Sharlene Walbaum, professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.  "We hope the students get exposure to psychology in a fun way and that they learn that there are all sorts of unexpected things that the science of psychology teaches you." 

The museum featured about 25 stations. Christopher Sanchez, a junior psychology major, used 50 colored ping pong balls - 25 orange and 25 white - to demonstrate gambler's fallacy, which is  the erroneous belief that the odds for something with a fixed probability increase or decrease depending upon recent occurrences.

"People sometimes think psychology is about therapy," Walbaum explained. "They don't really realize all the work that is done having to do with how we think, how we perceive, how we pay attention or how deal with people in groups - all sorts of things that you can study scientifically."  

While Sanchez greeted visitors at the door, Jessica Dascher, a junior psychology major, showed participants a short video in an upstairs room and asked them a series of five question that were either misleading or suggestive to see if they would change their responses based on the question that were posed.

"The problem is that, despite seeing something, hearing conflicting statements might get you to believe that you saw something that was not actually there," Dascher explained. "Misleading and suggestive questions often occur during eyewitness testimony." 

The event also featured a symposium, "From Attachment to Wisdom and Compassion: Empirical Insights into Parental, Peer, and Romantic Relationships," which focused on the ways in which attachment acts as an organizing concept within the science of psychology.

Thomas Pruzinsky, professor of psychology, led the symposium, while participants included Todd Ahern, assistant professor of psychology, Anne Eisbach, associate professor of psychology,  Michele Hoffnung, professor of psychology and director of women's studies, William Jellison, associate professor of psychology, and Michael Sheehan, assistant professor of psychology. 

Gustav Fechner, for whom the day was named, was a German experimental psychology. An early pioneer in experimental psychology and founder of psychophysics, he inspired many 20th century scientists and philosophers.