Subject Pool (SONA)

Subject Pool (SONA)

GETTING STARTED: What do I have to do?

First, you must go to a special web site called the Subject Pool (http://pennstate.sona-systems.com/).  When you arrive, you will log in using your PSU access ID (e.g., xyz123) and your regular PSU password.  Once you initially log in, you will create your SONA account and answer a few short questions. 

IMPORTANT:  When asked which course you are in, please make sure you indicate your course correctly.  Only students enrolled in PSYCH 100 (Introduction to Psychology) and PSYCH 105 (Psychology as a Science and Profession) are required to participate in SONA.  When choosing your course, make sure you choose the correct course and correct section that you are enrolled in.  Sections will be indicated by number, days/time, instructor, and campus (WC for World Campus and UP for University Park/main campus).

NOTE: If you change course sections of PSYCH 100, 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.

Second, each student in PSYCH 100 and PSYCH 105 on the University Park Campus must sign-up and participate in 6 total “hours” or “credits” of research.  You will sign-up via the SONA website indicated in step 1 above.  Partial credit is awarded for students who participate in less than 6 “hours” or “credits”.  Most studies are 1 hour long or less.  You have until the last week of classes (before final’s week) to complete the 6 required “hours” or “credits”

Third, you MUST check your PSU email regularly for Subject Pool/SONA 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.

Table of Contents

Research Participation Information for Adults

(18 years old or older with no objection)

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 18 years of age or older who do NOT have a conscientious objection to participating in experiments or research studies.

Information for minors and conscientious objectors

Why do I have to do it and what will I learn?

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 that are offered through the departmental Subject Pool. 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.

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.

Group Testing (a.k.a. The Mass Screening)

Group Testing (a.k.a. The Mass Screening) is a great opportunity to start earning research participation credit early in the semester. If you participate, you will get an opportunity to see a variety of surveys and questionnaires used by psychologists. The goal of Group Testing is to identify students with certain attributes (e.g., women or men with certain personality characteristics) that might be willing to participate in follow-up studies. You can participate in Group Testing even if you do not want researchers to use your data or do not wish to participate in follow-up studies.

Please do NOT wait to be contacted about follow-up studies. Even if you are contacted, participating in a follow-up study is usually not enough to fulfill the entire research participation requirement. ALL STUDENTS should take the initiative and participate in experiments posted on the Subject Pool web site throughout the semester.

How do I sign up to participate in research?

You need to make appointments with researchers to participate and earn course credit. Use the Subject Pool web site (http://pennstate.sona-systems.com/) to make appointments. When you arrive, log into SONA using your PSU login, click on “VIEW AVAILABLE STUDIES.” Click on the name or the “Timeslots Available” box for the study you want to learn more about. Please pay attention to the information about eligibility. Not everyone is eligible to participate in every study. Read the information about the study carefully. If you are interested in participating, click on “View Time Slots for This Study.” Click on the sign up box for the time you want.
Typically, it takes researchers a few weeks to get research studies ready. You should plan to complete one hour of research participation within the first few weeks of the semester, more hours throughout the middle weeks of the semester, and your final hour or two in the final weeks of the semester.

How do I get credit once I participate in research?

Students will receive course credit, not money, for participating in the studies included in this subject pool. Students are welcome to participate in studies offered outside of the pool that offer monetary compensation, but those studies cannot be used to meet subject-pool participation requirements.

Researchers will update your Subject Pool account electronically. You can check to see if your credit has been updated electronically by using the Subject Pool web site (use the ‘My Schedule/Credits’ link). It may take researchers a few days to update your credit.

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

Unexcused missed appointments (aka "No Shows")

Keeping appointments is very, very important. First, most experiments require a lot of work to prepare, so it is rude to skip the appointment when someone has prepared for you. Second, when you sign up and then skip the appointment you take an opportunity to earn course credit away from another student.

At the beginning of the semester, you are required to participate in 6 hrs. of research activities. If you miss too many appointments, you may not be able to complete the participation requirement and earn the full amount of credit.

If you complete the research participation requirement fully, you will earn 3% of your course grade. Clearly, the best strategy is not to have any unexcused absences.

What if I made an appointment, but I can't remember when or where it is?

You can use the ‘My Schedule/Credits’ link to view appointment information. Note that this button only appears after you’ve created a personal account and signed up for a research activity. Once you select the relevant study, you’ll see a list that includes all of the needed information.

If you make an appointment with a researcher over the phone or through email (as a follow-up to Group Testing), you are responsible for getting contact information from the person who contacts you.

What if I have to cancel an appointment or contact the researcher?

To see contact information for the researcher use the ‘My Schedule/Credits’ link and then select the relevant study.

As long as you cancel more than 24 hours in advance, you can usually cancel an appointment without penalty. To cancel an appointment, log onto the Subject Pool web site and use the ‘View or cancel my study appointments” located under the “My Schedule& Credits” heading. If it is less than 24 hours before the appointment, you must contact the experimenter (using the information listed). Try to contact the experimenter directly (phone, in person) if you need to give short notice.

The experimenter is not obligated to agree with your request to cancel. This is because some experiments require a day or more to prepare. If the experimenter refuses to cancel, then you must keep the appointment or you will receive a “no-show.” If you feel that this is unfair (because of a truly unavoidable emergency), please email cvy@psu.edu to explain.

What if I had an emergency and couldn't cancel in time?

Contact the subject pool administrator (). Please do not contact the experimenter, your instructor, or your TA.

What if I show up for an experiment and no one else is there?

First, go to the Subject Pool web site and click on the ‘My Schedule/Credit Check’ link to make sure that you went to the right place at the right time. If you did, then please contact the subject pool administrator () with details.

Can I do more than the required amount for extra credit?

For PSYCH 100 and PSYCH 105 students the answer is – YES. Once you have completed 6 hours of participation, you are welcome to participate in up to 2 more hours for extra credit. Students who participate in 6 or more hours without getting a “no show” will also earn an additional percentage point of extra credit. Please see your course syllabus for information about how this additional participation will count towards your course grade.

Is research participation safe?

Qualified researchers review each study before it is cleared for use. Most (but not all) studies ask you to do some kind of simple task (e.g., paper-and-pencil task, computerized task, use a map, watch videos, express opinions, etc.) You will not be asked to do anything that is obviously harmful or dangerous.

Also, (and this is important) researchers MUST get your consent before beginning the study. Researchers are required to explain experimental procedures and give you the chance to ask questions before you participate. If they don’t, or if you find the procedure objectionable, you can choose not to participate. You may also choose to stop participating at any time if you become uncomfortable with the procedures.

What if I turn 18 during the semester?

If you are 17 now, but will turn 18 during the semester you, you have two choices:

  1. You can sign up for and complete the “Research Alternative” assignments.
  2. You can sign up to participate in research, but you will not be able to actually participate in studies until you turn 18 (this option is recommended if you are turning 18 within the first 6 weeks of the semester).