The Social Science & Policy Studies (SSPS) Department uses our extensive teaching and research facilities to uncover new information and to teach students how to apply that knowledge and results to real-world situations.

The best word to describe the research conducted by the Social Science & Policy Studies Department is diverse. Whether they are seeking solutions for a broad range of societal challenges—from economic recession to underperforming schools to international conflict and beyond—SSPS researchers examine a wide variety of perspectives and use WPI’s extensive facilities and resources to do so.

That’s why they take an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving, while staying focused on society and technology and observing how they coexist.

Research Focus Areas

 

WPI’s Social Science & Policy Studies Department has many ongoing research projects at any one time. Our research is guided by, but not limited to, our focus areas.

 

Learning Sciences & Technologies                                    Social, Behavioral, and Economic Science                        Sustainability

Facilities

The role of research and teaching facilities is to inspire students to not only acquire knowledge, but also to gain an awareness of how to apply it to meeting real-world challenges. The Social Science & Policy Studies Department benefits from sharing top-notch facilities with several other academic departments and programs.

Advanced Learning Technologies Research Lab (Arroyo)

We create, explore, and analyze the impact of Learning Technologies for STEM focusing on various aspects of human learning. Our research spans many areas, including: Personalized Learning, Affect and Motivation, Metacognition, Embodied Cognition and Wearable Devices for Active Learning, Educational Games, Intelligent Pedagogical Agents, Students with Learning Disabilities, Cultural Differences in the Design and Implementation of Learning Technologies, and Learning Technologies for the Developing World.

Educational Psychology and Mathematics Learning Lab (Ottmar)

Teaching and learning mathematics is a highly complex social, exploratory, and creative process. We design novel dynamic technologies that make “math come alive” (Graspable Math, From Here to There!) and use eye tracking, mouse gestures, and log files to explore the coordination of attention, cognition, gestures, and strategies when solving mathematical equations. 

We also use a variety of applied multilevel quantitative methods, observational measures, and assessments to examine the efficacy of instructional, social, and emotional classroom interventions that can improve K-12 math teaching, learning, and engagement. 

Experimental Economics Lab

Located within WPI’s Salisbury Laboratories, this expansive facility is designed for conducting computerized economics experiments—and remains available for use by faculty members and students from all disciplines.

Health Psychology Lab (O'Brien)

Work in the Health Psychology Lab explores issues like connections between the biological basis of psychology and psychophysiology. The mind-body connection brings on both psychological and physical changes and by assessing these connected relationships, students learn about stress, resilience, protective health factors, cognitive effort, implicit biases, and health disparities among varied populations.

Social Psychology Inquiry (SPI) Lab (Skorinko)

This lab supports a variety of methodologies for conducting human participant research—particularly social psychological experiments. The emphasis is on research that examines how environmental factors influence attitudes, decisions, interactions, and cultural understanding. 

The Social Sciences Participant Pool

At WPI, students actively participate in ongoing research, so we have an active participant pool. Our participant pool provides an opportunity to show social science methodology in action, instill excitement about the discipline, provide an occasion to imagine life as a social science major or professional, and teach something about current research and the practice of social science. In addition, it provides researchers at WPI an opportunity to post studies and collect data fairly quickly and efficiently.

All studies submitted through the participant pool are reviewed by the Internal Review Board (IRB), and also clearly define how it is related to social science to ensure the studies meet the educational goals for the participants.

SONA Systems software is used to manage the participant pool and the research requirement.

Research Opportunities at WPI

Psychological science is unique among the sciences in its ability to engage students in active, cutting-edge research. Physics, chemistry, and biology do have laboratory components to their work, but it is rare that students in those courses experience novel research as it happens. WPI students can participate in this cutting-edge research in two ways: as participants and as researchers.

Resources for Using the Participants Pool and SONA

As Participants:

All students in psychological sciences classes participate in a research participation assignment. This assignment is designed to enhance the education of students in courses that focus on social science methodology and human-subjects research by providing them with hands-on experience. It also serves to enable researchers using human subjects to collect data more efficiently. Participants will sign up for research studies using SONA Systems software an online experiment-scheduling program.

As Researchers:

Students interested in being part of the design and running of psychological science studies at WPI are encouraged to contact the faculty members whose research interests them to get involved. Students work as research assistants in the labs helping out with current studies.

Students can also get involved in research through Independent Study Projects (ISPs), Capstones (for Minors), Interactive Qualifying Projects (IQPs), and Major Qualifying Projects (MQPs). For more information, please contact Jeanine Skorinko, the Director of the Psychological Science Program.

For Researchers:
For Instructors: