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Summer Snapshot: Jun Park ’16 on Researching the Social Psychology of Consumer Trust

Jun Park '16

About Summer Research

To learn more about the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) and to read more entries in our "Summer Snapshot" series, visit our SURP website.

This is one in a series looking in on the work and projects Pomona students are carrying out this summer.

Project summary:
The lab that I’m working in over the summer is called the Moral Emotions and Trust (MEAT) Lab, and the principle investigator is Professor Piercarlo Valdesolo at Claremont McKenna College (CMC). Technology is quickly advancing and it seems like the companies know so much about us. Where do consumers fit in? How do we respond to things like advertising and branding? We’re trying to gauge what sorts of judgments people make as they evaluate companies and what reactions they have when companies use their personal information. We’re looking at different characteristics of a company’s image and how we can manipulate these aspects so that people feel a certain way about the company. 

How does it work?
We’re trying to see how people differentiate between companies. After looking at previous research, we picked out a couple of organizations that vary along several different dimensions and created a survey. Using a crowdsourcing website called Mechanical Turk, we got more than  200 responses from people all over the United States; we also put it on an iPad that I took around the 5Cs to have people take the survey. We do outlier analyses and tests for normality to make the data as pure as possible. Because this is a pilot study, we don’t know what to expect. We have to make sure that what we’re doing isn’t unethical, that we’re following the right protocol and that we’re not throwing out data we’re not supposed to.

What is your mentor like?
I took a class—Psychology of Morality—with Professor Valdesolo this past spring. I loved the class because it was so well-taught. Everything really clicked. He knows how to explain things really well. He knows what he’s doing. It’s really cool to work with someone who is a great researcher but also a very fun person to be around. He’s made the research much more interesting; whenever we’re talking about questions or the papers we’ve read, it’s always engaging. He’s always pushing me to look into places I haven’t thought to go before.

What is one thing about your research so far that you find particularly interesting?
When I joined the lab this summer, I didn’t know what the actual projects were, just what they were about. I jumped in and was told, “OK, here’s what I’m thinking. What do you think?” Trying to familiarize myself with the process of coming up with the right question, I realized that there’s a lot for me to learn as a researcher. Before, I thought that you just ask a question and go at it, but there’s a process. You have to make sure that no one’s answered your question, first of all; that there’s enough background for you to actually have a theory or a model to test; and that you’re not just doing your test because it’s cool but because it’s relevant and important. It was really great playing a bigger role in this project.

Why are you doing summer research?
I’m thinking of going to graduate school for social psychology, and one of the big things you need when applying is a lot of research experience. I thought that doing this would be a great opportunity for me to branch out and experience the benefits of our consortium. At first, I was really intimidated because I thought, “Oh, a Pomona student at CMC, that’s going to be so awkward.” But the class was so much fun, people have been so friendly and I felt like it was a great opportunity I hadn’t previously considered because I thought I should stay only in Pomona classes. I’m realizing that there are so many great classes offered, and so many great professors, outside of Pomona. They want to help students from all Claremont Colleges with career development, giving us opportunities and making sure that we have all the resources we need to be successful.

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