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Mindset: we’ve got data

May 3, 2011

In the past weeks since I wrote about the Mindset Project I’ve been working on, I’ve discovered why I chose to do physics research. Mostly, the things we study are inanimate, experiments that are highly repeatable, don’t require dozens of experimenters, don’t talk back and don’t require any protocol for dealing with live subjects, etc. But today, we had a major breakthrough, which you can see in the photo below.


Going into this project I really had no idea how hard it is to carry out a psychological research study. We’ve had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get to this point, and seem to constantly be working to deal with lots of vagaries of scheduling 30 researchers and 100 subjects, on the top of all the normal business of the spring. But today, we finally pulled together our small team of 15 researchers who had been trained to go to the middle school and survey 15 6th grade school boys.

A couple of highlights:

  • Once you get out in the field, you learn a ton about how to carry out research. Almost from the moment we started researching subjects, we realized how difficult it is to keep our researchers blind to their subjects, little oddities with coding data and ways to streamline the whole process.
  • Humans throw a wrench into everything. When one researcher was interviewing a student, and said “wow, you did really well at that, you must be smart!,” the subject said “Is that in the script?” totally calling us out on our treatment in the experiment. Oops.

So the race is on to survey our remaining 80 or so subjects before the end of the semester. I think we can do it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anna Moore permalink
    May 3, 2011 11:24 pm

    As a researcher, the moment of data collection always fills me with a touch of giddiness. There is so much hard work that leads up to that point – often years in a university setting (from grant conceptualization to writing, etc). So today felt like a victory to me. All along, I’ve said that I was proud of this project even if we were unable to test a single participant. I am so proud of the background reading, paradigm framing, grant writing, and rehearsal these studnets put into this project. But, today – that first pen to paper in the act of data collection – was exhilarating. As gratifying to me as seeing the data appear was overhearing the students (both the 6th grade participants and the high school investigators) say “that was fun!” after a testing session ended.


  1. Self-reflection and goals for 2011-12 « Quantum Progress

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