Allison Mahler and Michael Medford, both from West Morris Mendham High School in Mendham, N.J., recently won $100 awards from the Morris County Psychological Association (MCPA), for studies they completed as part of a psychology class.
Mahler's topic was "An experiment to investigate the impact of an anchor on subjects' responses to questions requiring numerical estimates." She selected numerical information that subjects would be unlikely to know, such as "What is the population of Bosnia?" and asked for the information in the form of a straight question or alongside a reference point-asking, for instance "Is the population of Bosnia larger or smaller than 10,000,000?" She found that reference points led to more accurate guesses than questions without anchors.
Medford's topic was "An experiment to investigate the halo effect of beauty upon an individual's perception of trustworthiness." He first defined physical attractiveness by having one group of participants rate photos from a high school yearbook from another school. Then he displayed lists of adjectives about a person, with or without a photo. He found a positive correlation between how the female subjects viewed the attractiveness of a male and their judgment of that male's trustworthiness, and statistically insignificant results for the male subjects.
The MCPA gives out the annual award to promote interest and study in the behavioral sciences among high school students. Those taking classes related to the behavioral sciences, including psychology, human and animal behavior, child development and sociology, are eligible for the award.
MCPA received 26 entries for the 2007 awards, which were judged by 18 psychologists. Medford and Mahler garnered the two top scores. Joshua Kaplan, Beatriz Iglesias, Allison Wilkinson, Meredith Bress, Elizabeth Biro, Jennifer Brown, Meaghan Forte-McRobbie, Monica Schmidt and Colette Shalhoub won honorable mentions.