Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site: Translational Research in Psychological Sciences: Human Factors at Texas Tech University




Program Benefits



2017 Summer


Examples of Projects

·        Faculty Mentor: Patricia R. DeLucia, PhD

Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences


Example Project #1: Judgments of overtaking during driving


The objective of this project is to study the information that drivers use when they decide to pass another vehicle. In 2012, these maneuvers accounted for 91,000 accidents in the United States, resulting in 672 deaths and 19,000 injuries. Our prior research showed that during overtaking, drivers were more likely to pass a lead vehicle when the oncoming vehicle in the opposing lane was a motorcycle compared to a truck, suggesting that decisions were based on the size of the vehicle. The current study aims to measure the contribution of perceived harm from the oncoming vehicle, which is correlated with the vehicle’s size.  The study will use a driving simulator. Results will have implications for transportation safety.


Example Project #2: Effects of training on judgments of collisions


The objective of this project is to study the effects of training on a driver’s ability to make judgments about collision. Prior research showed that people can improve perceptual judgments. However, such improvements were limited to basic stimuli and tasks and did not generalize to non-trained tasks. Our prior research showed that, in contrast to earlier studies of perceptual-motor skills, people who trained with occlusion glasses (stroboscopic viewing) did not improve judgments of when an approaching object with hit them. The current study aims to measure the effects of a different training method-- attentional instructions and to determine whether people can be taught to rely on the most effective visual information. Results will have implications for transportation safety, sports, and rehabilitation of the visually impaired.


Example Project #3: Multisensory integration of information in judgments of collision


The objective of this project is to study how people combine information from vision and hearing to make judgments about collisions. A fundamental component of mobility is the ability to avoid collisions with objects or people in the environment, for example, walking in a shopping mall or crossing a street. These abilities have been considered mostly visual and there are few studies of the use of auditory information for collision avoidance, and even fewer on how auditory and visual information are combined. The current study will use auditory and visual simulations of approaching objects and measure the relative contributions of vision and hearing to judgments of collisions. Results will have implications for training and rehabilitation of people who have vision loss and thus might compensate for this loss by relying more on hearing.


·        Faculty Mentor: James Yang, PhD

Associate Professor, Ed and Linda Whitacre Faculty Fellow, Associate Chairman, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Mechanical Engineering


Example Project #1: Understanding the insights of falls for the elderly through biomechanics simulation model


Falls are among the most serious problems facing the elderly and the second leading cause of accidental death for 45-75 year old adults due to aging and environmental factors. Healthcare costs from falls in the elderly in the United States are estimated to reach $32.4 billion per year by 2020. After a disabling fall elderly individuals suffer loss of mobility and reduced quality of life, in addition to burdensome healthcare costs. The objective of this project is to investigate the insights of falls and cause and effects in the elderly through musculoskeletal human simulation model, OpenSim (developed by Stanford University).


Example Project #2: Medical devices (exoskeletons, prostheses, and other bio-robotics) design and analysis


Medical devices such as exoskeletons or prostheses are a hot research area around the world and have applications in military, civil and medical applications for strength enhancement or medical rehabilitation. The aim of this project is to design an innovative device for medical rehabilitation applications, analyze the design, and develop human-machine interface for humans to use.


·        Faculty Mentor: Tyler Davis, PhD

Assistant Director, Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences


Example Project #1: Unsupervised learning during vigilant performance and applications to homeland security


The objective of this project is to study how people learn patterns during contexts requiring sustained attention. Although many careers require long periods of sustained attention, and extensive research has been done examining how to improve sustained attention, little is known about how and whether people in such careers are able to learn incidental patterns that occur during periods of sustained attention. For example, expert baggage screeners must pay strong attention to the content of bags as they pass on the screen so they can detect weapons, but are they able to learn subtle patterns about the sequences of bags and their contents that pass through the screening? Noticing patterns, such as several suitcases in a row with the exact same bottles of liquid in the same orientation, may be critical for catching terrorist plots that are being carried out by a group of passengers. Similarly, expert wire tappers may need to notice code words or phrases that appear in patterns while attending to large volumes of auditory information. In this study, we will examine the mechanisms associated with learning incidental patterns during vigilant performance, and how vigilant performance impacts generalizations people make about such patterns. 


Example Project #2: Cognitive influences on the perceived risk of catching diseases from animals and implications for public health communication


The objective of this project is to study how people perceive health risks associated with animal contact. Over half of novel emerging diseases in the 20th century, including Ebola, HIV, and influenzas have come from animal origins, yet little is known about how people judge risks associated with drivers of such diseases. In this study we will examine cognitive and personality-based influences on people's judgments of disease risk and how to tailor communications about disease risk to improve decision making. 


·        Faculty Member: Zachary P. Hohman, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences


Example Project #1: The physiological effects of self-uncertainty


Uncertainty identity theory (Hogg, 2007) rests on the assumption that human beings strive to make sense of the world and that feeling uncertain about one’s perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings is highly aversive (Hogg, & Abrams, 1993; Hogg, 2007; Hogg & Mullin, 1999). Previous research, however, has only measured the aversive nature of self-uncertainty with self-reported discomfort. The current study aims to measure this discomfort with precision above and beyond what self-reports offer: through the use of psychophysiological methodology. Students will learn how to measure participants’ heart rate, skin conductance, and facial EMG in this study.


Example Project #2: Hostile Debates: Attitude Certainty and Aggression toward Opposers


Previous research shows that feeling certain about one’s attitude causes people to hold a competitive conflict style during a debate (Rios, DeMarree, & Statzer, 2014). Does attitude certainty also cause aggression toward those with opposing opinions? Students will design a Qualtrics experiment and collect data on Amazon Mechanical Turk to investigate what attitude characteristics spark aggression and hostility.


·        Faculty Mentor: Keith S. Jones, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences


Example Project #1: Perceiving an Autonomous Robot’s Affordances


Example Project #2:


·        Faculty mentor: Martina I. Klein, Ph.D

Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences


Example Project #1: Perceptual-motor adaptation and mental workload in the laparoscopic training environment


Laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive surgical approach, requires surgeons to view the target tissue on a monitor via a camera (laparoscope) that is partially inserted into the patient. Surgeons manipulate the target tissue using long, thin instruments that are also partially inserted into the patient. Thus, the laparoscopic environment poses perceptual-motor distortions for surgeons, including a disruption of the hand-eye mapping. The aims of the present study are twofold. First, we want to determine whether basic perceptual-motor adaptation theories generalize to novices in the laparoscopic training environment. Second, we want to assess the mental workload (attentional load) experienced by novices in the laparoscopic environment.


Example Project #2: Nature exposure and its impact on attention restoration


Prior research has indicated that nature interventions are effective for restoring our cognitive (i.e., attentional) resources (see Kaplan, 1995). Such interventions are not limited to real nature-immersions but are also effective when utilizing digital nature pictures.  However certain image characteristic might result in more effective interventions. Thus, the goals of the present study are to (1) determine image characteristics that result in more effective of digital nature interventions and (2) to  further identify the limitations of such interventions (e.g., are digital nature interventions effective for individuals with depressive symptomatology). 


·        Faculty Mentor: Michael J. Serra, PhD

Associate Professor and Director of Experimental Psychology Graduate Program, Department of Psychological Sciences


Example Project #1. Factors affecting metacognitive judgment accuracy


When we think about, monitor, or control our cognitive processes, we are engaging in metacognition (“thinking about thinking”). For example, a student studying for an upcoming exam must accurately monitor their current state of learning for a variety of topics in order to be able to effectively allocate their remaining study time to make the biggest gains in learning. Unfortunately, students are often inaccurate in evaluating their current state of learning, which leads to ineffective study. One type of project I could oversee with my REU mentee would involve identifying factors that produce inaccurate judgments in a given study situation, or testing factors hypothesized to enhance judgment accuracy. Such research can inform best practices for students studying for real-world exams, and for teachers and instructors guiding their students on how best to study and prepare for exams.


Example Project #2. Multimedia learning and dual-coding in memory


One of the most consistent findings in cognitive psychology is that people understand and remember new information better when they encounter it in multiple modalities (e.g., visual plus verbal) rather than one (i.e., visual only or verbal only). This finding underlies dual-coding effects on memory as well as multimedia learning effects on the retention and comprehension of text passages. Another type of project I could oversee with my REU mentee would involve identifying factors that enhance (or discourage) multimedia learning effects in realistic learning situations (e.g., text comprehension, online learning, or new language vocabulary acquisition), or testing predictions from current theories of multimedia learning or dual-coding. Related, I also have an interest in studying how people incorporate new information across multiple sources (e.g., incorporating related information from an instructor, a textbook, and an online video), especially if they differ in modality. Such research can inform best practices for the designers of learning and instructional materials.


Example Project #3. Technology-enhanced learning and studying


Students are no longer learning only from instructor-provided lectures and static print textbooks. Rather, a wealth of new technologies (enhanced e-books; interactive digital simulations; computerized personal tutors) and practices (online-only courses; flipped classrooms; MOOCs) are now available for instructors and students to utilize in their teaching and learning. To what extent, however, are these newer approaches useful for enhancing learning, and do any actually detract from learning? A third type of project I could oversee with my REU mentee would involve examining or comparing the efficacy of different approaches to teaching or studying (e.g., standard textbook vs. enhanced e-book), or to compare the efficacy of different versions of a single approach (e.g., the efficacy of different restudy schemes within computerized tutoring). Such research can inform best practices for the designers of learning and instructional materials, especially digital and enhanced materials.


·        Faculty Mentor: Dr. Amelia Talley, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences


Example Project #1: The Promise of Expressive Writing Interventions for Informing Identity Development


The proposed project will utilize experimental methods to conduct a longitudinal intervention-based study based upon a validated paradigm. Individuals who report heightened ambiguity with regard to their sexual identity will be recruited into the study. Outcomes of interest include identity development, psychological well-being, and coping behaviors.


Example Project #2: Establishing experimental manipulations of ego- and ecosystem goal motivational systems


Crocker recently described two distinct motivational orientations relevant to the self: egosystem and ecosystem. Characteristics of egosystem motivation include: (1) evaluating and judging the self and others and (2) concerning one’s self with the impressions others hold of them. Individuals employing this motivational system during disclosure have reported heightened self-consciousness and social anxiety. By contrast, characteristics of ecosystem motivation include: (1) prioritizing the needs of others and (2) taking responsibility for creating desired outcomes. Drawing upon the common ingroup identity model, the proposed set of studies will test a series of potential experimental manipulations that attempt to evoke an eco-system, as opposed to ego-system, motivational orientation. Tenets of this sub-theory suggest that more harmonious intergroup interactions can result from modifying socially-constructed boundaries that individuals commonly use to differentiate themselves from others: in essence, transitioning from distinctions between “us” and “them,” to a more inclusive “we” to blur the boundaries of group categorization. Outcomes of interest include constructs related to self-categorization, person perception, ingroup bias, identity development, and psychological well-being.