One of Binghamton University’s most popular majors is psychology, and understandably so. It is a fascinating science and offers a versatile and useful degree. Moreover, psychology professors at BU conduct outstanding work, researching many important facets of the field from human sexuality to neuroendocrinology, and many subject matters in between.
In psychology courses offered at the University, such as PSYC 111: General Psychology and PSYC 243: Statistical Analysis & Design, students are strongly encouraged, and sometimes even mandated, to participate in research as part of the curriculum. These research-participation requirements are four credit hours worth of psychology experiments and are dictated by the psychology department, not the instructor of the course. Oftentimes these research-participation requirements contribute directly to research experiments conducted by professors of psychology or other psychology students at BU. At other universities, psychology studies are carried out with compensated participation and are open to both students and community members. With a single Google search, you can find hundreds of these opportunities at universities like Northwestern University and Stanford University. However, when searching for similar opportunities at BU, few results appear. Beyond the occasional notifications in daily B-Line and B-Engaged emails, there aren’t many paid studies available for students across the University, presumably because professors are requiring their students in psychology courses to participate in studies conducted through the psychology department.
As an incoming college student, I was advised to sign up for these studies; they presented a way to get paid in an efficient and noncommittal manner, which was ideal for when you needed some money in a pinch. When I heard from friends at different universities that they were actually making some money this way — and that the “college hack” that had been reiterated to me throughout my senior year of high school was not a lie — I was disappointed. Some students are unable to commit to a part-time job in college due to other commitments, such as taking 16 credits a semester, extracurriculars or participating in athletics. Paid opportunities, such as psychology studies, should be made more available on campus as a way to supplement struggling students’ finances instead of making it a requirement for certain students.
Moreover, making these requirements exclusive to psychology students may compromise the validity of the research being conducted. For example, if professors in classes such as PSYC 111 and PSYC 243 are requiring participation from their students, this limits the pool of participants to, largely, psychology majors, creating bias in their studies. PSYC 243, commonly referred to as “Psych Stats,” is a requirement for psychology majors and is one of the classes that includes this research-participation requirement. A random sample for the data pool is necessary in a valid research study. So, ironically, in the textbook used for PSYC 243, it states that “you would not get a random sample of college students by selecting individuals from your psychology classes.”
Ultimately, for both the benefit of the research being conducted and students on campus, psychology studies should be made available to students across all majors, and students should be compensated for participating in them.
Theodora Catrina is a sophomore majoring in mathematics.