From OSU Mansfield Research Assistant To Reviewed Academic Author

30 Oct , 2018  

Before Sophomore Jackson Schaffer, a 19-year-old psychology major, started at The Ohio State University at Mansfield, he thought the road to becoming a published researcher in his field would be long and hard. However, Jackson has learned, both in the literal and figurative sense, that perception isn’t always reality. Jackson is listed as one of the co-authors on a manuscript being reviewed by the Journal of Experimental Psychology submitted by Associate Professor of Psychology Dennis Shaffer.

“I realize this is a wonderful opportunity for me,” said Jackson. “I’m thrilled that I’ve had the chance to do this kind of important research at Ohio State Mansfield.”

Jackson is from Willard, Ohio, a small town about 30 minutes from Mansfield. He chose the Mansfield campus because he could continue working while in college, and he thought the smaller class sizes would help him make the transition from high school to college. Jackson found the class sizes made things less intimidating and allowed him to get to know his professors.

“I had Professor Shaffer for my first two semesters, Intro to Psychology and Data Analysis,” said Jackson. “Before autumn semester started, I got an email from Professor Shaffer saying he had a research assistant position open if I wanted it, and I jumped at the chance.”

Jackson worked with Professor Shaffer on an experiment this fall which examined spatial perception. The experiment asked two groups of participants to estimate distance and steepness of a hill. The first group was asked to estimate knowing they were going to be asked to push someone in a wheelchair up the hill. The second group was asked to make the estimations knowing they were going to be riding in the wheelchair and pushed up the hill. Recent research indicated evidence that anticipated and actual effort influences spatial perception, causing participants who are fatigued or encumbered to overestimate distances and the steepness of hills more than groups who are not fatigued or encumbered. Professor Shaffer’s experiment found that the groups differing in both effort (push themselves or ride) and intent (think they will have to push themselves or not) estimate distance and steepness the same. Professor Shaffer believes this points to the fact that our perception of the world remains stable irrespective of physical or mental states and points to a more cognitive explanation for our feelings that slopes are steeper or distances are greater when we are mentally or physically fatigued or encumbered.

“I learned that there is a lot more that goes on with this world with the mind that we don’t know about, said Jackson. “Professor Shaffer has helped me see things with a whole different perspective. He engages with students and is invested in research. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a research assistant with Professor Shaffer.”

“I like having undergraduate students work with me on research,” said Professor Shaffer. “It helps students to develop independent critical thinking skills, and, depending on far they take it, oral and written communication skills as well as they may be able to earn a co-authorship on a conference paper or manuscript submitted to a journal. For employers and graduate schools it provides a nice demonstration of the application of skills you used in the classroom to the advancement of knowledge in a discipline.”

Jackson plans to transition to the Columbus campus for autumn semester 2019. After completing his degree, he plans to go to graduate school and someday be a school psychologist or counselor.

Source: The Ohio State University at Mansfield; Photo: Creative Commons License

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