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Subject Pool FAQ's for Minors and Objectors

Federal laws restrict participation in experiments and research studies to students who are 18 years of age or older. Some people, described as conscientious objectors, may refuse to participate in research on the basis of religious or moral principles or beliefs. The information below is for people that are not yet 18 years of age and for people that have a conscientious objection to participating in experiments or research studies.

Why do I have to do it?

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What is the best therapy for depression? Do some people really have a photographic memory? Do birds of a feather flock together or do opposites attract? For the most part, the material taught in psychology courses is the product of psychological research. To increase your familiarity with psychological research, all PSYCH 100 and PSYCH 105 students are required to participate in research activities sponsored by the Psychology Department. This research participation will count as 3% of your course grade (in other words, if you do not participate in any research activities you lose 3% of the total course points).

Students in some 200-level psychology courses may also get opportunities to participate. Students in these courses should consult the course syllabus to learn how participation will count towards the course grade.

What am I going to learn?

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Research participation provides opportunities for students to see and experience the methods and procedures used to study the human mind and behavior. Participation can also help students dispel myths about psychological research (most of it does not involve rats and mazes, inkblots, or hypnosis) and become better consumers and critics of studies reported by the media. Since careers involving scientific psychology require research, participation can also help students preview aspects of psychology as a career.

What do I have to do?

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First, you must go to a special web site called the Subject Pool (First, you must go to a special web site called the Subject Pool (http://pennstate.sona-systems.com/) and create your Subject Pool account. When you arrive, it will look like you can just type in your Penn State ID and Password to access the Subject Pool – you can't. The Subject Pool system is independent of other Penn State systems, so you must set up an independent account. To set up your account, click on the blue 'Request Account' button located at the right side of the screen. You will need to enter a User ID – enter your Penn State email address (e.g., xyz123@psu.edu). 

Please make sure you indicate your course correctly. Students taking an introductory psychology course should indicate that they are in PSYCH 100. PSYCH 100 students should make sure they indicate the section they are in correctly. Students taking Psychology as a Science and Professions should indicate that they are in PSYCH 105. Some of our courses are offered online through the World Campus. Student should make sure they select the correct classroom-based course (indicated with a UP for University Park) or online course (indicated with a World Campus designation). Students at other campuses should not participate in this subject pool.

IMPORTANT: If you change sections of PSYCH 100 after you have created your Subject Pool account you MUST contact the Subject Pool Administrator to have your course status changed. Otherwise, your credit information could go to the wrong instructor, and may not be counted in your course grade.

Once you request an account, you MUST check your PSU email regularly for Subject Pool information. Sometimes email about the Subject Pool is inadvertently filtered into your junk mail or spam folders. Please check these folders to make sure that you do not miss out on important Subject Pool information (including new account information). 

Second, after receiving your account information, you must login to the Subject Pool and answer a few short questions. 

Third, PSYCH 100 and PSYCH 105 students must complete 6 'research alternatives' (see below for more info); each is worth 1 hour of research participation. Partial credit is awarded when students participate in less than 6 hours. Sometimes minors can participate in special minor-approved experiments. When these special minor-approved experiments become available (this happens rarely) you are welcome to participate...but you don't have to if you don't want to. Each hour of participation replaces 1 research alternative.

Please note: Research alternatives have deadlines that must be met to earn credit.

What are 'Research Alternatives'?

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Research Alternatives are on-line tutorials that require students to read about and experience psychological phenomena. Students are required to complete a written assignment as they go through each tutorial. Research Alternatives have deadlines and must be turned in to 125 Moore Bldg. by the due date.

How do I access research alternatives?

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You need to use the Subject Pool web site (http://pennstate.sona-systems.com/) to access research alternatives. You need to sign up for research alternatives to participate and earn course credit. Use the Subject Pool web site (http://pennstate.sona-systems.com/) to make appointments. When you arrive, click on “VIEW AVAILABLE STUDIES.” Click on the name for the option you want to see and then click on “View Time Slots for This Study.” Click on a sign up box to access the research alternative. 
When the worksheet opens (Adobe Acrobat Reader required), follow the instructions on the worksheet. Please pay attention to the due dates!

How do I get credit once I complete a research alternative?

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Do not hand your completed research alternatives to your instructor or TA. Once your assignment has been completed (correctly), drop it off in 125 Moore Bldg. (Dept. of Psychology Advising Office - open 8:00-12 and 1:00-4:30 M-F) before the due date. Your credit will be updated electronically (usually on the first of the month and right before finals). You can check to see if your credit has been updated by using the Subject Pool web site (use the 'My Schedule/Credits' link).

Note: The Subject Pool web site tracks your research participation. Your instructor tracks your other course credit separately.

Can I do more than the required number of Research Alternatives for extra credit?

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For PSYCH 100 and PSYCH 105 students the answer is - YES. Once you have completed 6 hours of participation (6 research alternatives), you are welcome to complete up to 2 more for extra credit. Please see your course syllabus for information about how this additional participation will count towards your course grade.

Missed Research Alternatives

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Like many class assignments, research alternatives have deadlines. Information about deadlines is included on the Subject Pool web site. Research Alternatives are reviewed and processed manually (not by a computer), so turning these assignments in on time is important. If you sign-up to participate in a research alternative and do not hand it in, you will be a assigned a "no show." Students who complete 6 or more research alternatives without getting a "no show" will receive a point of extra credit. 

Please remember, you are required to participate in 6 of the 8 research alternatives available. If you miss too many, you may not be able to complete the participation requirement and earn the full amount of credit.

If you miss a deadline due to extenuating circumstances, please contact the subject pool adminstrator () with an explanation.

What if I turn 18 during the semester?

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You are welcome to contact the subject pool adminstrator () after you turn 18 and ask to have your account changed so that you can participate in experiments....BUT, you don't have to. You may also continue to complete the research alternatives to earn research-participation credit. If it is late in the semester, a change may not be possible.

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