Many students at Penn choose to become lab rats — in exchange for money or course credits.
Penn has two main data collection services that students can participate in to help researchers: Sona Systems and the Wharton Behavioral Laboratory. Students often receive course credits or money for their efforts.
Sona Systems is typically used by psychology researchers and most of the students who participate in the Sona experiments are students enrolled in psychology classes.
Wharton freshman Linda Zhang said she has participated in psychology experiments through Sona, but spends much more time participating in research experiments for the WBL. According to the WBL , the lab “provides a variety of services that support data collection for behavioral research on business-related topics.
“I do the experiments because not only do you get paid, but it feels like you’re contributing to future research and it’s helping out the faculty in that way,” she said.
Zhang said she appreciates how easy it is to participate in research at Penn through WBL.
“I’ve done it like 10 times over my freshman year,” she said. “You can earn easy money — like if you have an hour in between classes, that’s usually what I do. If I have an hour break, I will just sign up for an experiment.”
The WBL writes that students can typically earn $10 for participating in a single experiment, but may earn more “for studies in which payment depends on performance in some way.”
Zhang said she has made about $100 this year and plans to earn more in the coming years.
College freshman Wendy Yang took an introductory psychology course last semester and participated in three Sona experiments to fulfill the course requirements.
She recalled that in one of the experiments which took about an hour to complete, she had to distinguish between different language tones. She wore headphones and was in a laboratory, which she said made her feel more involved in the research.
“I also fulfilled some of the credits by participating in online surveys,” she said. “I did this survey online about food and another one on decision-making that was cool.”
College freshman Gabrielle Fink participated in research through Sona, not for a psychology class, but for extra credit in a linguistics class.
Fink said it is a pretty straightforward process.
“Some were online, some were in a lab,” she said. “Each one was worth a different number of points, and I did online surveys.”
Fink was happy to participate in the research, especially since it allowed her to receive extra credit in her course. However, she wished she participated in a lab experiment as opposed to one online.
“I enjoyed it, but I think it would have been more interesting if I had chosen to go to one in a lab because the online ones were very fast and very surface-level. But I heard from other people that some of the ones in labs were very interesting, but they also take a lot more time.”
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