Jake Yang’s Summer 2017 SPUR Reflection

Jake Yang headshotI believed having a large frame of reference and a flexible mindset to be my forte. Growing up in numerous places, I had opportunities to interact with people from a different socioeconomic, racial, and political backgrounds. Understanding their perspective and the way they think, I was able to approach research questions and my personal curiosity through a diverse set of lenses.

Accepted into the SPUR program, I was prepared to not only learn and grow from the SPUR experience, but also to contribute to the projects I will be working on with this strength as an asset. Little did I know, I was only a fish in a fishbowl thinking I have explored the whole ocean.

In the beginning of the internship in Dr.Gardner’s lab at Northwestern University, I read about the relationship between parenthood and well-being and also what women go through as they become mothers, which were related to the first project that I received. It reminded me of the conflicts I had with my mother during my childhood, and I was able to better understand the conflict from my mother’s perspective. Then, I learned about the loving-kindness meditation that we will be teaching the participants and also was trained how to interview the participants.

By the time I got used to the new environment, Dr. Gardner asked me if I would like to get involved in a different project, one focused on bisexual individuals and identity denial. I jumped into the assignment without hesitation. Then, I learned that bisexual individuals find identity denying comments to be the most unsupportive feedbacks they receive from others, and we were in process of identifying if the most supportive feedback involved identity confirming comments.

With this in mind, my next assignment was to work with the undergraduate research assistant in her lab, Hannah, and develop the coding schemes for the responses from bisexual and homosexual individuals as they recorded the most supportive feedback they received from heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual people. Under Dr. Gardner’s and another graduate student’s supervision, Hannah and I were able to develop 13 categories to code the data.

During the coding process, however, I encountered a difficulty that I never thought I would. Since Hannah and I initially came up with our own coding to the responses, we later had to compare the coding and agree on each response. Therefore, when we had different coding for a response we had to try and persuade each other why we think differently. When convincing each other, I often decided to take a stand on my coding even when she strongly disagreed, as I had confidence in my large frame of reference and believed my reasoning for the coding was valid, even though I had very limited experience with individuals from LGBTQ community compared to Hannah.

As we struggled with continuous arguments, I slowly realized how my confidence and strength was actually a burden in this case. I became flexible, more understanding and humble, taking in perspectives of people from different backgrounds. With this new mindset, I was able to work with Hannah more efficiently, allowing work to progress and making it possible for Alexandra to write and submit the abstracts on time for the SPSP 2018 Convention.

Throughout the SPUR experience at Dr. Gardner’s lab, not only have I learned valuable skills such as becoming accustomed to the interview process, developing coding schemes, and learning how to quantify qualitative data, but I also got to look back at myself and grow personally by reminding myself what makes strength, a strength.

The SPUR experience for me was a net that took me out of the fishbowl, releasing me in a bigger pool of water. I hope and look forward to continuing my journey in the experimental psychology realm with the invaluable experience in mind.