Thursday, April 7, 2011

I Heart School

I'm back in school, and loving it.  Last semester I took a night class at the community college--a psychology class on human development over the life span.  This semester I'm taking two morning classes: abnormal psychology and basic statistics.  Five days a week, my little girls and I make the journey down to the college.  I drop them off in their classrooms and then head to my class.  MW is psychology, TTh is statistics, and on Fridays I get three hours of study time in the library.  How I love to be in school again!  This coming spring term I'm registered for a psychology research methods class at the university.  Fall semester I will take experimental psychology.  I am working towards applying to a Ph.D. program in Psychology.  Besides course work, I need to retake the GRE, take the psychology subject test, and keep trying to get research experience. 

In order to get the research experience I need, I sent an email to several professors at the university asking if they could use any unpaid student labor.  Apparently they all have too much of that already.  But luckily for me, one professor passed my request on to the graduate students in his lab, one of whom contacted me.  So on Fridays I am helping out with a study about narcissistic personality disorder by being the confederate.  What is the confederate? you may ask.  The confederate works in cahoots with the person running the study, but pretends to be just a regular research participant. 

Here is what I do.  I wait in the hall for the research participant to arrive, and try to act like I have also just arrived.  The graduate student running the study gives us some instructions, a form to fill out, and sticks us in separate rooms.  We are both supposed to write a personal experience which shows us at our best--something we've done that we're really proud of.  After 10-15 minutes, the researcher collects what we've written and swaps them.  We are supposed to read what the other person has written and then answer five questions about it.  The questions says things like, "Based on what you have just read, do you think this is a person you would like to get to know?"  "Do you think that what this person did is admirable?"  Et cetera.  The researcher tells me how to answer the questions.  Some participants receive high praise from me, and others receive the opposite (low praise?  no praise?  anti-praise?).  The papers and feedback are given back to the original owners, and then the participants fills out 5 questionnaires regarding current feelings of anxiety and anger based on the feedback they have just received.  When they are done, the researcher tells the participant that my feedback was bogus and asks if they suspected.  Then they are free to go and we wait for the next participant.   

According to the graduate student I am working with, professors aren't too eager to take on a research assistant with no prior experience, so I am grateful he has thrown me a bone, as small as it may be.  This study is almost over, but hopefully I will get some more chances to help with research, and eventually do some of my own, as this seems to be a key component in getting into doctoral programs.

I sometimes worry about going back to graduate school.  My first experience was not particularly pleasant, and I only had two children at the time.  But many things reassure me that I am on the right path.  One of those things is my abnormal psychology textbook.  I just can't put it down.  When I run out of children's literature to analyze, you may get to hear some fascinating tidbits about mental disorders.  Stay tuned! 

I was in the car right after class today, talking to my neighbor in her driveway.  After a few minutes she said, "you look so happy!"  The tone of her voice told me that this is unusual.  What can I say?  School makes me happy.


Brenda said...

Sometimes you just have to go for it, otherwise, you'll beat yourself, you go girl:)

Opa said...

Looking forward to the fascinating tidbits about mental disorders.

Suzanne said...

First, love the new picture! Second, go get 'em! You can do this. Third, I'm nervous to see all my mental quirks listed in your blog....can you fix 'em?

LL said...

So glad to hear that you're loving school! :-)

Grad school then and grad school now are two completely different things. I'm sure that there will still be challenges, but you're studying something you love and that you're passionate about. I think that makes it easier to get through the rough times.