Through Hood College’s Summer Research Institute, psychology major Nicole Wilson ’16 worked with Jason Trent, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, to conduct psychological research into trust judgments of women and which personal traits play into those judgments.
According to Trent, judgments of trust can play an important role in determining which social situations to approach and which to avoid. Previous research into these judgments and which perceived traits play a role in them has primarily focused on men.
In this research, the first study had 100 participants rate female target photos on how mature, intelligent, feminine and attractive they were perceived to be, as well as what kind of emotion they appeared to be feeling. The second study had of 105 participants rate the photos on whether they appeared to be criminals, as well as what emotions they appeared to be feeling. The third study, yet to be completed, will have a different sample of people rate the targets on whether they appear to be trustworthy. When Wilson and Trent collect the data for the third study, they will combine the results to see how the trait and emotion judgments relate to judgments of trust. They will then compare the results of this study with the results of their previous research using male target photos to come to a better understanding of how people determine whom to trust.
Trent has been working with Wilson on research for the past two years, so he was confident that she had the skills and ability necessary for this project. He said he has observed her ability to critically assess problems, organize her thoughts and interpret complex data, along with many other qualities that make a successful researcher.
“I am very impressed with how she has developed as a researcher,” he said.
Under Trent’s supervision, Wilson conducted a literature review of the relevant research, created the studies, analyzed the raw data and put together an abstract and a poster to submit to the Eastern Psychological Association’s annual conference.
“One of the most difficult challenges I faced was when we analyzed data,” said Wilson. “A lot of problem solving goes on—figuring out which analyses are most appropriate, which data needs to be used, etc. But those challenges are also what made it rewarding. My favorite part was getting answers to the questions we had about the data!”
Working through the phases of this project—developing a series of studies, running the studies, analyzing the data and presenting the findings—taught Wilson research methods that she will use in the future.
“The SRI opportunity directly related to what I hope to do after Hood,” said Wilson. “I want to go to graduate school and eventually do research of my own, so learning how to do that now with Professor Trent was really helpful.”
The Summer Research Institute gives students the opportunity to work with faculty advisers on a research project. The projects involve laboratory or field work for eight weeks during the summer. The SRI provides students with a $2,500 stipend and free housing.