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Psychology lab at St. Andrews created for all areas of psychology

Class in the psychology lab with the board

Chilling out in the Psychology Lab

Computer Lab of Psychology Lab

Experimental Computer in Psychology Lab

Laurinburg, N.C. - Every Thursday morning at 9:30, students in Psychology 490: The Self, walk into the Psychology Lab in the lower level of the Morgan Jones Science Building at St. Andrews University.

The 5,000 square foot facility consists of two reception areas, a quiet room, several small rooms, and one large room designed for experiments, focus groups, and observational studies. Much of this space is equipped with one-way mirrors for observation, and there is even a small computer lab for students. The laboratory area is shared with Forensic Science and occasionally plays a role in crime scene analyses.

“Our goal is to teach students the entire process of research from creating a hypothesis to conducting experiments to writing and presenting papers,” said Ann Phillips, assistant professor of psychology. “The Psychology Lab is a great tool in this process.”

It is a tool that was developed in the early 1980s, thanks to a commitment in the late 1970s to ramp up the psychology department according to former professor Peggy Johnston.

“I was hired as one of the people to do that,” she said. “Martha Knight was also hired at the same time in social psychology and Alvin Smith did the clinical/counseling classes. The idea of a hands-on, experiential component of psychology evolved as part of our mission. As a result, we start talking seriously about designing and finding funds for a proper psychology lab.”

The group worked to design a lab that would reflect all of the aspects of psychology offered by St. Andrews. At that time, although the psychology department was housed in social and behavioral sciences, the basement in the science building provided the unrestricted space to create a psychology lab from nothing.

The trio of psychology faculty researched what would be needed to create a space that would provide for a top experience in each realm.

“In an amazingly quick process the three of us were able to come up with a rough sketch of what we wanted and I drew rudimentary architectural drawings,” Johnston said.  “We talked with members of the Board of Directors, we talked with the academic dean and we talked with the president of the college, all of whom were really excited by the concepts that we were presenting to them.”

The Board approved the plan in a January meeting, with the administration fundraising and committing funds to the project to complete the project.

“The architects were thrilled to have our drawings because it made their job a lot easier and in one summer the psychology lab was completed,” said Johnston.

The completed lab was designed to meet specific purposes, but also had an element of flexibility to create the best setting for all involved.

“We wanted to have rooms that were large enough to conduct experiments or observation work that would hold a dozen or more people and furniture, but we also wanted to have one-way mirror rooms surrounding them for students to observe and learn, and we wanted access to those rooms that would not interfere with what they were observing,” Johnston said. “We were to do this by maximizing the flexibility of the rooms and the location of the rooms within the space.

The completed space included that perception laboratory along with a computer lab, soundproof laboratory and five observation rooms. While over time that space has changed, the ultimate goal of the space has remained the same - to give the students hands-on, real world experiences not typical of a small liberal arts college.

“The Psychology lab gave our undergraduate psychology students a real bonus when they went to graduate school because the experience they had at St. Andrews as undergraduates was very comparable to what they found in graduate school, in other words the small seminar-type classes that we conducted, the laboratory experience, and the research experience gave them the skills needed to be successful in graduate school,” Johnston said.

Phillips agrees, “Involvement in research is a must for graduate school applications, and our lab is perfect for conducting research projects with students. I plan to get majors and other interested students started on projects as part of research methods, and continue with upper level courses and internships.”

The Psychology Lab, with a library of textbooks, graduate school information and GRE preparation materials including practice test software, also provides psychology students will a study and relaxation space.

“There are areas for students and faculty to gather when studies aren’t being run, which is a nice asset,” Phillips said. “We can have small classes and meetings in the space. Both the social and practical aspects of the space help promote a sense of community and involvement.”

Class in the psychology lab

Psychology Lab Observation Space

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St. Andrews University
A branch of Webber International University
1700 Dogwood Mile
Laurinburg, NC 28352
(910) 277-5555 • (800) 763-0198 • (fax) 910-277-5020
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