Undergrad Research Labs
Dr. Jack Aiello
The program of research of the Social and Organizational Psychology Research Lab investigates the process by which people regulate and control their social interaction with others at home and at work.
Social Facilitation - We are testing the premise that social presence be viewed as a continuous variable differing in the salience of presence. We are focusing on two often overlooked types of presence: anticipatory and residual social presence. Anticipatory social presence relates to anticipating the arrival of an observer and residual social presence relates to the feeling of "presence" which lingers after an observer has left.
The Effects of Distractions and Interruptions - We have found that some types of distractions and interruptions while we are working actually positively affect performance. So, we are designing other studies to test when music and workplace distractions detract or improve performance. In addition, we are testing under which conditions individuals improve their performance depending on the task, their personality, and their immediate environment.
Social Psychology of Technology – We are conducting a series of studies examining the role that technology plays in our interactions with others. At work millions of Americans are continually monitored from the moment they arrive at work. We already have demonstrated the stressful effects on employees’ health and performance of this monitoring process.
Telework - We are conducting a longitudinal case study of a division of a market research organization which I helped make the transition to full-time telework. We are studying changes in employee anxiety, distraction, communication, team cohesion, and performance.
We provide students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with the day-to-day operations of research in social and organizational psychology. Students will participate in the excitement of discovery: they will learn how research is generated and hypotheses are formulated, how investigations are conducted, and how data are organized, analyzed, and interpreted. There are many opportunities to participate in the training for and the execution of research, both in the field and in the lab. Students are able to learn how to effectively research the literature on topics related to social and organizational psychology. Working as a team is a central part of our research, and students have a great opportunity to learn how best to work together.
Students will have an opportunity to acquire skills that are invaluable in graduate school and in the workforce. These skills include literature searches, using computer programs to organize and analyze data, detecting and correcting problems that arise in the lab, and brainstorming ideas for future studies with the research team. The more initiative students take, the more opportunities they will have to acquire these skills.
Dr. Bates is Distinguished Research Professor and associate director of the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies (CAS). She directs the Research Division and the Cardiac Neuroscience Laboratory at CAS. The mission of this multidisciplinary lab is to conduct integrated physiology, psychology and neuroscience research aimed at understanding alcohol and other drug effects on behavioral flexibility, and developing innovative bio-behavioral treatment approaches for persons with alcohol and drug use disorders. The lab is especially interested in learning how visceral bodily reactions are integrated with cognitive and emotional regulation through the baroreflex feedback loop. Students have the opportunity to participate in a number of studies (see our website for more details http://research.alcoholstudies.rutgers.edu/active/cardiac-neuroscience-laboratory-cnl):
- Acute alcohol effects on psychophysiological arousal in relation to cognitive and emotional regulation and risk for substance use disorders
- Research at the Rutgers Brain Imaging Center (RUBIC), Rutgers-Newark, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and psychophysiological assessment tools to understand brain-body feedback systems during cue reactivity and breathing challenges
- Collaborative research with computational modelers at UC-Santa Barbara and AIMdyn, Inc., to build a personalized medicine model of resonance breathing intervention effects
- Randomized clinical trial of resonance breathing as an adjunct to treatment as usual with a community partner/treatment provider, The Center for Great Expectations (New Brunswick, NJ), to interrupt reactivity to triggers and negative affective states that promote relapse
- Collaborative research with neuroscientists and exercise scientists on college depression and risky alcohol use
Rising sophomore and junior undergraduates are encouraged to apply because the most valuable lab experience comes from a multi-year emersion in the lab. Post-baccalaureates seeking to do research in the gap year(s) before starting graduate school are especially welcome. Prior research experience is not required, but useful. Key skills include attention to detail, dependability, ease with learning new software, and a desire to learn in a high-tech, multi-disciplinary lab. Students will be provided with comprehensive hands-on training.
Many of our previous students have gone on to gain admission to highly competitive Ph.D. and M.D. programs.
Contact: Marsha E. Bates, Ph.D., Research Professor, Center of Alcohol Studies
Dr. Kasia Bieszczad
Disorders of learning and memory are a major issue facing many people and families today. My laboratory focuses on the neuroplasticity of the brain, and in particular how neuroplasticity supports information processing and storage when animals (like humans) learn and remember something new. What are the biological mechanisms that control learning-induced plasticity in the brain? And how does neuroplasticity contribute to long-term memory about newly learned information?
We in the CLEF Lab (*CLEF Lab = Cortex Learning Epigenetics & Function) study the auditory cortex to investigate sensory information processing, learning, and storage in memory. For example, the lab uses rodent models of simple associative learning to show that a rat can learn to press a button when they hear a particular acoustic frequency to receive rewards. How does the animal learn this specific auditory association? It turns out that the brain's representation of sound changes when the animal learns a sound is important, e.g., for obtaining reward. Mechanisms of neuroplasticity "re-tune" the auditory cortex so more cells become highly sensitive to the important acoustic frequency (and less sensitive to other frequencies). This has become known and identified in the field as auditory receptive field plasticity, frequency tuning shifts, and cortical (tonotopic) map expansion.
Our research questions are: (1) How does the auditory cortex come to encode sound-specific information? (2) What are the biological mechanisms of plasticity that select auditory cells and circuits for "re-tuning"? (3) What behavioral factors make animals "good" or "poor" learners? And how is "good vs. poor learning" related to auditory neuroplasticity and subsequent memory? Our lab investigates these questions at multiple levels. We use behavioral training and tests in rats, cortical electrophysiology, and molecular genetics to understand the behavioral, neural systems, and epigenetic mechanisms that dictate how animals (like humans) can learn and remember. Epigenetic mechanisms that control gene expression also offer an entry point to study and identify key genes associated with neuroplasticity and adaptive behavior. Thus, our research also has implications for identifying key genes that may be involved in auditory communication and learning disorders, e.g., autism.
Keeping in mind that the function of the auditory system lies at a complex junction between sensory perceptual and cognitive processes is integral to our research. Therefore, by studying the learning-induced plasticity of the auditory cortex, students will have in-depth exposure to research and scientific literature relevant to neural processes of perception, learning, memory, and plasticity.
How do physicians and patients make decisions, and how do their decision processes differ from the best way that decisions could be made? My research focuses on decision biases and the psychological mechanisms that underlie them.
Current studies address topics such as: Why don't people do what is good for them, like accept free flu shots? How can decision biases be harnessed to encourage healthier behavior? How do people make decisions about risky outcomes? A related study examines whether giving household information about their moment-to-moment electricity use helps them to conserve electricity.
Interested students should look at the medical decision making lab web page and then contact Dr. Chapman.
Regulation Action and Motivated Perception Lab
The Regulation, Action, and Motivated Perception Lab is currently recruiting motivated research assistants interested in a rich and comprehensive research experience. The RAMP Lab, directed by Dr. Shana Cole, studies the social cognitive and perceptual processes that predict and promote effective goal pursuit. Current projects explore the role of motivated visual perception in managing relationship, dieting, smoking, political, and exercise goals.
RAs will gain hands-on experience in all aspects of the research process, including attending lab meetings where new ideas are developed and ongoing research is discussed, contributing to the design and implementation of study materials, helping with data entry and analysis, and most importantly, spending time in the lab and in the field helping to conduct social psychological experiments.
While no specific prior experience is required, we do expect that applicants will have completed basic introductory psychology courses. As a result, the lab experience is best suited for sophomores, juniors, or seniors. RAs will be expected to spend approximately 5-10 hours/week involved in the lab. In addition, we ask that students only apply if they are able to commit at least two semesters to working in the lab.
Please visit our lab website at http://www.ramplab-rutgers.com/ for an application.
My students and I conduct research on psychosocial and emotional factors involved in the development and course of chronic physical diseases. We focus on coronary disease because it is a major killer and offers a useful model for understanding psychological factors and pathophysiological mechanisms that are broadly relevant to physical health. This work is guided by a framework that emphasizes personal attributes, such as emotional syndromes (anxiety, depressive symptoms), personality traits, religiousness, and ethnicity, and social-contextual factors, such as life stress and supportive social relationships.
Mechanisms that account for physical health effects of psychosocial factors emphasize processes involving stress and emotions. These are addressed at both psychological and biological levels. At a psychological level, the emphasis is on cognitive appraisal and coping processes that govern emotions and other responses to stressors and challenges. At a biological level, the emphasis is on autonomic and cardiovascular changes that may explain associations between stress/emotional processes and physical health and disease.
Among specific projects currently underway are:
(1) Adaptation to Heart Surgery: How do patients cope with the stress of undergoing heart surgery? Does the “brush with death” associated with surgery affect personality, social relations, and religious beliefs? Do psychosocial and emotional factors predict short-term recovery and long-term adaptation following heart surgery?
(2) Management of Heart Disease: Do heart patients have accurate beliefs about coronary disease and its treatment? Do these beliefs influence the performance of behaviors necessary to control coronary disease, such as taking medicine, exercising, and eating a healthy diet? Can interventions that alter patients’ beliefs improve the management of coronary disease?
(3) Psychophysiology of Threat: How do threats associated with academics, social relationships, self-concept, and physical health influence thought and emotion? How do they affect us physiologically? Do these physiological effects of threat increase the risk of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases?
(4) Brain-heart interactions: The brain and the heart are two of our most important bodily organs. How do they influence one another? Can measurement of the brain’s electrical activity (EEG) help us to understand cognitive and emotional processes and attributes that influence cardiovascular functioning?
Students in our lab gain experience conducting experimental, field, and medical research involving techniques for acquiring and analyzing psychological, biomedical, and physiological data. Although these are by no means requirements, preference will be given to students with skills/knowledge in biology, computers, electronics, and/or statistics, who plans to attend graduate school or medical school, and who are willing to make a one-year commitment or more to work with our group. We welcome students from a variety of fields, including psychology, biological sciences, and engineering. Many of our former students are now physicians, clinical psychologists, and medical researchers.