Thousands of UCF students are plugged in to their music-streaming apps, listening to the lyrics of Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé or Nick Jonas almost every day. But this begs the question of what these lyrics are really leaking into their perceptions and subconsciouses.
Enter the research of the Media and Migration lab.
Located on the South Lake regional campus, the lab consists of research formed by questions like these.
The MM lab is the first and only psychology lab at UCF and was developed in 2011 by Chrysalis Wright in order for undergraduate psychology students to research ways mass media and technology affect behaviors among college students.
“Personally, my research revolves around media … and the influences of popular music. I’ve done a lot of research on non-traditional college students and a lot of our regional campus students are considered non-traditional,” said Wright, a developmental psychology and research methodology professor.
Wright said by developing the lab, she wanted to give regional students an opportunity to get involved without having to drive to the main campus.
The lab isn’t limited to regional students, but it operates as a unique function on the smaller UCF campus, where students normally do not get as involved with campus activities.
Natasha Vashist, a psychology alumna, found out about the MM lab while taking Wright’s Statistical Methods in Psychology course.
“At regional campuses, there were very little opportunities to get involved. There’s not a lot of advertising at UCF for the [MM lab] unless you’re at that campus,” Vashist said.
After applying for one of the research assistant positions at the lab, she was accepted and began working on her thesis about the effects of misogynistic, humorous shows, such as How I Met Your Mother and Family Guy, on the perceptions of women.
“We study almost everything in media. Dr. Wright does her study along with us doing our personal thesis,” she said. “She was so amazing at letting students be innovative.
“[Research] is very diverse. We look at sexism, racism, homophobia … all of it.”
Like many of the students who work in the lab each semester, Vashist had the opportunity to present her thesis both nationally and locally at the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference.
“I think I attended five psychology research undergraduate conferences. Being in the lab opened doors for me, so I was really grateful,” she said.
Vashist’s thesis was accepted by the UCF undergraduate research program for publication, and she continues to collaborate with Wright to tailor her thesis for the journal.
Michelle Craske, a sociology graduate student who also worked as a research assistant for the lab during her undergraduate career, worked on her thesis about music influence on risky sexual behavior, also alongside Wright.
“The purpose of my study was to determine if exposure to music influenced people to engage in risky behaviors,” Craske said. “The results of my study varied by race and gender for the population that was analyzed.”
The former MM lab research assistant said her research with Wright provided her with an invaluable skill set to help her get accepted into graduate school.
Her thesis was published in a psychology peer-review journal, Media Psychology Review.
Wright said she is amazed at the level of success her students have achieved beyond the lab, and she encourages undergraduate psychology students to apply and get involved with the lab in the spring semester.
Although students have analyzed different aspects of topics of media relations to development patterns from all sorts of angles, Wright remains contingent about the impact of music among students, which is what her current research aims to examine.
“I think it’s important considering the impact music has on emerging adults from college and that’s one of the things we pinpoint. A part of the campus party culture is a part of the music they listen to …behind those lyrics … we study substance abuse, promiscuity, STDs and unwanted pregnancies,” Wright said.
Although the research lab might seem like a microscopic feature of the vast programs offered at UCF, Craske and Vashist said the lab resonates among the psychology students getting involved because the opportunities and research exposure will linger with them throughout graduate school and their careers.
“I would definitely encourage expanding the lab. It’s important for regional campus students to be given these opportunities,” Vashist said. “Having them drive like 10 minutes to the Southwest campus instead of an hour to the main campus to get involved, I think that’s a huge blessing.”
Shanae Hardy is a Digital Producer at the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaeH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.