Psych lab provides hands-on experience
LAURINBURG — Every Thursday morning at 9:30, students in Psychology 490: The Self walk into the Psychology Lab in the lower level of the Morgan Jones Science Building at St. Andrews University.
The 5,000-square-foot facility consists of two reception areas, a quiet room, several small rooms, and one large room designed for experiments, focus groups, and observational studies. Much of this space is equipped with one-way mirrors for observation, and there is even a small computer lab for students. The laboratory area is shared with Forensic Science and occasionally plays a role in crime scene analyses.
“Our goal is to teach students the entire process of research from creating a hypothesis to conducting experiments to writing and presenting papers,” said Ann Phillips, assistant professor of psychology. “The Psychology Lab is a great tool in this process.”
Former professor Peggy Johnston said it is a tool that was developed in the early 1980s, thanks to a commitment in the late 1970s to ramp up the department.
“I was hired as one of the people to do that,” she said. “Martha Knight was also hired at the same time in social psychology and Alvin Smith did the clinical/counseling classes. The idea of a hands-on, experiential component of psychology evolved as part of our mission. As a result, we started talking seriously about designing and finding funds for a proper psychology lab.”
The group worked to design a lab that would reflect all of the aspects of psychology offered by St. Andrews. At that time, although the psychology department was housed in social and behavioral sciences, the basement in the science building provided the unrestricted space to create a psychology lab from nothing.
“In an amazingly quick process, the three of us were able to come up with a rough sketch of what we wanted and I drew rudimentary architectural drawings,” Johnston said. “We talked with members of the Board of Directors, we talked with the academic dean and we talked with the president of the college, all of whom were really excited by the concepts that we were presenting to them.”
The completed space included that perception laboratory along with a computer lab, soundproof laboratory and five observation rooms. While over time that space has changed, the ultimate goal of the space has remained the same – to give the students hands-on, real world experiences not typical of a small liberal arts college.
“… The small seminar-type classes that we conducted, the laboratory experience, and the research experience gave them the skills needed to be successful in graduate school,” Johnston said.
Melissa Hopkins is the director of communications for St. Andrews University.
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