Experiments as a window on the human soul
International ‘Conference of Experimental Psychologists’ from 21 to 25 March at the University of Jena, Germany
One of the most important methods psychologists use to gain information is the experiment. Hardly any branch of the discipline can do without paradigms that help to systematically illuminate and understand certain aspects of human behaviour and its control through cognitive, emotional and motivational processes. Metaphorically speaking, these experimental paradigms are therefore something akin to ‘windows on the human soul’. For this reason, it is as essential as it is enriching for researchers to discuss their research results and methods with colleagues. There will be such an opportunity this year in Jena, Germany, from 21 to 25 March, when some 800 experts meet for the international ‘Conference of Experimental Psychologists’ (TeaP) at Friedrich Schiller University. The conference is the largest of its kind in the German-speaking countries and it is the second time that it has been held in Jena, following the first occasion in 2009. Participants can look forward to 3 keynotes, 32 symposia on a variety of topics, 373 talks and 206 posters.
Understanding and explaining the basic functions of humans
“Experiments are fundamental to basic psychological research,” says Prof. Klaus Rothermund of the University of Jena, one of the conference’s organisers. “We attempt to understand and explain the basic functions of the human being by conducting experiments in which we create and test various conditions that have consequences for human behaviour. Since we intervene manipulatively during the experiments, we can be sure that we explain basic human behaviour causally and that it is not influenced by certain preconditions.” General psychology – research on memory, emotion, motivation, attention, perception, and learning – would be impossible without such experiments. And experimental psychology plays a correspondingly fundamental role at the University of Jena.
In their work, researchers frequently have recourse to a ‘toolbox’ containing previously designed sample test set-ups, called paradigms, which are adapted, combined and innovatively developed further for each individual experiment.
During the conference, scientists will also have the chance to discuss their methods and the use of digital facilities for analysing research data. However, the main focus will be on research results – for example in the area of language acquisition. One speaker, Gabriella Vigliocco of University College London, will present new findings on how children learn to talk not just by hearing and applying what has been said, but also through further cues given by the speaker. In this context, she will report on new research methods that enable her to study her participants in authentic environments.
Control processes keep us on track
Her London colleague Antonia Hamilton will dedicate her keynote presentation to the social cognitive and neuronal processes that take place during non-verbal communication and interaction between people. In particular, she has studied why people imitate the person they are talking to, in order to feel connected with them.
In his talk, Tobias Enger, from Duke University in North Carolina, USA, will present new answers to the question of how the brain manages to keep us on track by means of cognitive control processes. Cognitive control is needed in particular when something happens that deviate from the norm. For example, a person driving to work may have to deviate from routine behaviour because a hazardous traffic situation has suddenly emerged, requiring the driver to pay attention and break from the routine followed up to that point.
Prof. Dr Klaus Rothermund
Institute of Psychology of Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Am Steiger 3, Haus 1
07743 Jena, Germany
Tel.: +49 (0)3641 / 945121
This conference was canceled as a precaution to make the spread of the coronavirus as difficult as possible.