Please give a brief, simplified overview of your research project.
My honors thesis analyzes the language of emotionally charged naturalistic (taken from Reddit) and experimental (taken from recruited participants) text samples. I’m essentially investigating what kinds of language people use when describing happy, sad, angry, anxious, and love-filled experiences. What kinds of similarities and differences are there between the language used for each emotion? What about types of text? I also RA in the Pennebaker lab where I do more research examining what people’s language says about who they are, how they are, and why they are the way they are.
Describe the tasks you engage in as part of your work.
For my thesis, I use Python to scrape text data from social media platforms (like Reddit). I analyze text data using LIWC (to score the language) and R (to run statistical tests with the language scores). In the Pennebaker lab, I routinely use the programs R, LIWC, and Excel for data scrubbing, analysis, and visualization. I also conduct research in the Department of Linguistics, which involves examining different levels of large computational language models called GPT-3 and analyzing their ability to predict language from a given sample.
Describe what you thought college might be like before you came to UT. Did you consider research when thinking about college?
I was actually a journalism major when I started at UT. I hadn’t considered becoming a researcher. My plan was to become an investigative journalist and I always thought research involved a lab coat and safety goggles. I didn’t even know the extent of psychological research here until I voluntarily participated in a study for a friend of a friend. That exposure both introduced me to and captivated me with research.
How did you get involved with your research project?
I sent a cold email to the Pennebaker lab during my second semester of freshman year expressing my interest, asking if there was any way I could get involved. A graduate student reached out soon after and offered me the opportunity to assist with her project. I’ve been in the lab for almost three years now and have been able to start my thesis and work in the linguistics department because of it.
Do you see your project connecting with your plans for your future?
Certainly! Balancing multiple projects at once has been really good practice for graduate school. I am currently applying to doctorate programs and ultimately hope to become a professor someday.
What is the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve gotten to do for this project?
Spending my summers actively conducting research in the lab led to a poster presentation at the 2021 convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychologists!