what [livejournal.com profile] theladyrose did on her summer vacation

Aug. 24th, 2009 08:12 pm
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[personal profile] theladyrose
I have to confess, being off LJ and other blogs for 2 weeks was gloriously liberating - so much time available for so many new experiences! I'm hoping to strike a happy balance between being sucked into reading interesting things online and achieving my (existentia)list goals for the coming academic year.

I just realized that I haven't updated in nearly 2 months, and while I don't lead a completely and utterly fascinating life, I do feel like thinking things out through the written word to process everything that's happened.

Short version: turned the year that's the winning number in blackjack, seriously questioned life goal of getting a clinical psych PhD, learned about doing geropsychology research at Stanford, hung out with mostly 70 and 80 year olds when I wasn't chasing after them with pedometers, cheated on Douce France at Coupa Cafe with [livejournal.com profile] dragonfly66 and [livejournal.com profile] shakeitdown, visited my NY relatives, and spent an enchanting week in Oregon before returning to college

I keep hearing that college graduation's supposed to be this pre-quarterlife crisis inducing transition, and quite honestly I don't feel in the slightest anxious. Then again, I'm sticking around another year for grad school and crossing my fingers that Rose and [livejournal.com profile] darklightluna will do their master's here, too, starting next fall, so that I won't be bereft of college friends (Gabe, I already know you're sticking around :P). Despite the pessimistic trends in American unemployment data these past few months, I'm feeling pretty good about where my life is going - and increasingly it's headed towards the workplace rather than into a aging-focused psych PhD program.

My intense love-hate relationship with research continues to be...cyclical. The prospect of my future career focusing primarily on research makes me want to bludgeon my head with the nearest blunt object. As fascinating as I find the culture of academia, it's mostly because I know enough now to legitimately snark at it. Thanks, Stanford, for showing me that bureaucratic pettiness is rampantly flagrant even in the best psychology department in the US. Though I am just a wee bit jealous that they actually pay *all* their participants $15/hour. The intellectual territory they explore is absolutely fascinating, but being the one who actually extracts all the data from those who inhabit it - terrifying given the pressure to produce publishable, grant-awarded results on a continual basis. I know just enough about doing research to sound vaguely impressive to undergrad business students (ie. my college friends), but I keep realizing how little I know about meta-level stats. I stand in awe of econometricians and demographers. I can do multinomial logistic regression now, which is the most complicated stats test I need for my thesis data, but I'm not fluent in SPSS syntax the way I wish I were.

On the one hand, I love my academic mentors and my thesis project, and almost all of my personal idols are/were professors or otherwise educators. But reading PhD Comics and reading Thomas Benton's columns in the Chronicles of Higher Ed have been playing legitimate devil's advocate with all these voices telling me to get a doctorate. I've come to the realization that much of the appeal of having a PhD is the prestige, as much as I genuinely love what I'm learning. I'm working past my intellectual inferiority issues about being dumber than all my good friends and role models. Growing up in Silicon Valley, which is the most intellectually snobby place in America outside of Boston, instills a warped sense of linking higher education at brand name institutions with being financially and otherwise successful. Alas, that's just not true these days. My friends who haven't gone to college are some of the smartest people I know (I'm referring to you, f-list), and I have to get over my incredibly classist notions that higher education is the Path to being a person worthy of deeper respect.

As to what I was actually doing, I'm too lazy to summarize it, so I have my grant app report

From May 18-August 8, I acted as a research assistant in Dr. Laura Carstensen’s lifespan development lab at Stanford, where we investigated memory and decision making in the health context and health behavior change. More specifically, we explored the interaction of emotion and motivation on older adults’ physical activity, as mediated by message framing. 60 community-dwelling participants recruited from the Avenidas Senior Center participated in our 5-week study and logged how many steps they took each day. Participants completed an initial set of measures measuring daily emotional experiences, self-perceived health, and motivation to engage in exercise and other health behaviors. For the next 4 weeks, participants heard either positive or negatively framed messages about the health effects of walking. On the 6th week, participants filled out a duplicate set of measures to assess changes from the start of the study.

For this study, I recruited participants, administered surveys and the experimentally framed message check-ins, coded the collected data and performed some preliminary statistical analyses on SPSS. I learned the basics of how to design psychology experiments on ePrime to develop topically related pilot studies and learned how to perform and interpret the results of more advanced statistical tests on SPSS (partial correlations, multiple linear regression, bivariate logistic regression, and multinomial logistic regression). As background for this study, I also wrote an annotated bibliography on goal gradient and prospect theories in the context of health promotion interventions.

Though primarily assisting Dr. Carstensen’s lab studies, I had the opportunity to use some of my newfound statistical skills to run some logistic regression tests on of my psychology honors thesis data. I was already familiar with Carstensen’s work on socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) as it forms the basis of my thesis, which focuses on age differences in how emotional regulation influences the emotional valence and thematic content autobiographical memories. SST posits as older adults’ future time perspective diminishes, older adults become motivated to uphold a positive emotional state and to focus on emotionally meaningful goals. Their present-oriented goals are prioritized over exploring and seeking information that could be valuable for the future.

Unfortunately, older individuals’ motivational focus on pursuing emotionally relevant goals may limit health-related information seeking as they are less likely to attend to and remember negative information. This motivational focus may also translate into defensive reactance towards certain types of health promotion and disease promotion strategies. Numerous studies have found that age is associated with decreased health self-regulation. The value of engaging in preventative interventions such as receiving flu shots or ongoing health promotion practices such as exercise may be diminished, leading to a present-oriented focus on alleviating current aversive symptoms and interacting with loved ones. Our preliminary analyses demonstrate that participants in the positive framing condition walked more than those in the negative framing condition, but these results are tentative as not all of our data has been collected.

Outside of research - I swear I will actually elaborate on the rest of these experiences in a later post, but that's almost dooming myself to never getting around to it. Given it's the 1st week of classes, though, I probably will actually write about them : )

Loved my first day of classes and can't wait for film music history tomorrow with Jon Burlingame, one of the best lecturers I've ever heard and the producer of the MFU soundtracks. Here's to an incredible (and hopefully productive) senior year.
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