William Jettinghoff‘s Summer 2017 SPUR Reflection

William Jettinghoff headshotWhen I was chosen to be a part of SPUR, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to conduct research with an advisor and lab that were focused on moral psychology, the area that I am most passionate about.

I was looking forward to an intensive summer developing new skills and building upon existing ones to become more comfortable at various stages of the research process. Particularly, I wanted to become better at creating manipulations, more thoughtful about measurement, and more confident analyzing data.

I was also excited to be exposed to new literature in moral psychology, and to enrich my awareness of the theories, methods, questions, and researchers within it. Additionally, I hoped that my experience with Dr. Jesse Graham at the University of Southern California would prod me to ask new questions, allowing me to further explore my interests.

Thanks to Dr. Graham and SPUR, I am glad to say I made substantial progress on these goals. When I arrived in Los Angeles, I shortly began working on a project exploring the interpersonal consequences of moral belief change. Through this project, I was indeed able to hone my ability to create a good manipulation, become more mindful of the ramifications of my measurement decisions, confident analyzing data in R, and in thinking about a research question more programmatically.

I was also exposed to new ideas, methods, and researchers in moral psychology and experimental philosophy. Through expanding my awareness of the work in these fields, my reading allowed me to gain a better understanding of what questions intrigue me, and how they relate to other areas of research.

Reflecting back on the beginning of the summer, pursuing these goals surely made me develop as a researcher. I now feel much more prepared and eager to continue conducting research in graduate school. However, much of the growth made possible by my SPUR experience with Dr. Graham did not come specifically from striving towards the goals I set at the beginning of the summer.

Indeed, this summer was full of many unexpected opportunities. For instance, I was able to assist Dr. Wendy Wood on an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study. This experience forced me to consider issues surrounding self-report and external validity, and also made me more broadly interested in exploring unfamiliar methodologies, such as those in social neuroscience. I also completed my first preregistration this summer, and found the process to be extremely rewarding.

With Dr. Graham’s help, I was able to attend the 2nd meeting of the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science (SIPS). SIPS engendered in me a concern for the issues at the heart of science, such as openness and reproducibility. Through Dr. Graham’s encouragement, I also attended the 43rd meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology (SPP). SPP truly made me value interdisciplinary research, and reinforced my interests at the intersection of philosophy and psychology. Lastly, I was also lucky enough to be on the USC campus during SISPP, which allowed me to meet many of the bright and hardworking students in attendance.

In hindsight, it seems that the largest benefits of this summer can be explained through awareness, value, and meeting new people. Awareness of new ideas, methods, and problems in psychology have made me more mindful of my field and the issues I will have to consider moving forward as a scientist. I also came to more strongly value sound science, which is actively concerned with its core concepts and assumptions, and that is open and reproducible. Lastly, at USC, SPP, SIPS, and SISSP, I was given the pleasure of meeting and learning from many new faculty and PhD students.

SPUR was, undoubtedly, incredibly formative. It helped me develop in many ways as a scientist, and I cannot thank Dr. Graham and the many people that I met throughout the summer enough for the growth and learning that took place during it.