Photo of student Lauren Quinn

Lauren Quinn - SURE 2016 'Embodied Economics'

Why did you choose to apply for the SURE scheme with Economics?

I saw the SURE scheme advertised on the university website when I was in first year and the idea of gaining research experience appealed to me as I enjoy applied elements of my degree. I thought SURE would give me the opportunity to gain an insight into how to complete a piece of economic research, as well as making use of the skills I had learnt in my degree so far.

After attending the SURE showcase in February I knew I wanted to be apart of SURE, as it was inspiring to see the quality of work produced across six weeks. Before SURE, I was considering a career in Social Research, so I knew I would find it beneficial to gain research experience by being apart of SURE.

What did you do for your project?

I was working with Dr. Philip Powell for my project which focused on behavioral economics. It explored the concept of embodied economics, by examining whether charitable giving could be influenced through implicit sensorimotor feedback, via arm movements.

Current experimental studies have analysed how it is possible to increase positive social judgments by manipulating bodily feedback, yet there has been little research into how this can be replicated for economic decision-making. Based on the premise that forward (away from self) arm movements are associated with giving, and backwards (towards self) movements are associated with taking, our research hypothesized that when individuals made repetitive actions away from (vs. towards) themselves, this would prime greater charitable giving.

In order to manipulate people’s hand/arm movements prior to giving, we programmed a novel iOS app featuring a simple mental rotation task, which used the touch-and-drag element of an iPad. This part of the project gave me the opportunity to learn how to use code and how to design an app on X code.

Once this aspect of research design was complete, data collection commenced. 50 participants were recruited from University cafes to 'help pilot' a cognitive task which required participants to touch-and-drag the correct rotated version of a shape to the original version, either away from or towards themselves depending on which version of the app they given. They were then rewarded with £3.00 for their time but they could choose to donate any amount of their earnings to charity in £1 increments (£0-£3).

After collecting the results, we analysed the data on R and wrote the SURE report on our findings. This project allowed me to split my time between research design and data collection so I gained experience in both of these areas. After the six weeks of SURE, this project also enabled me to learn how to write a report effectively and how to produce an academic poster.

What have you learnt from undertaking the project?

From this experience I now understand the process of academic research and have learnt numerous of new skills by being part of SURE. The key skills that I learnt from this specific study were:

  • How to design and code an app.
  • How to use new software and how code works, which I would not have learnt if it were not for SURE.
  • How to problem solve effectively - as this was a new method of data collection for the department, we did have a few issues during this project so I also learnt.
  • How to analyse quantitative data on R and write an effective report on primary data.

From attending an InstEAD workshop and being surrounded by academics on a day to day basis, I gained invaluable knowledge about postgraduate study, funding opportunities and advice about careers after graduation. I have learnt a lot from SURE and I am really grateful to have experienced it.

How do you think this experience will help you in the future?

Due to the SURE experience, I am considering postgraduate study as it has given me much more confidence in my capabilities and I have learnt skills in report writing and data analysis, which will be required in further studies. I am unsure at this stage if I would pursue a career in academic research but it has reaffirmed my interest in career in research. As I now have experience of leading a piece of research and have gained other skills which I would not have gained from my undergraduate degree such as coding, I feel this will open up more opportunities for me after graduation when applying for a Masters or jobs. The advice and support my supervisor gave me across SURE will also help in the future.