Psychology Studies During a Pandemic

How the COVID-19 pandemic has affected recent scientific studies


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

A published article by a University of Wisconsin-Platteville professor, Kameko Halfmann, shows the interesting world of psychology. Throughout the time she has been on campus, many teachers have conducted interesting studies. Currently, studies can be heavily affected by COVID-19 and outside factors. 

The influence of COVID-19 could have made huge differences in academic papers. However, Halfmann’s recent article, published on Jan. 1 was done back when she was in graduate school in 2014. COVID-19 had no effect on her study published, because the information was collected far enough back that COVID-19 wasn’t mainstream or around at the point of the study. 

“Neural correlates of cognitive reappraisal of positive and negative effects in older adults” is a study that looks into emotions in older adults. The study had participants, 31 young adults and 19 older adults, view many International Affective Picture Systems and had them report on the IAPS effects after each image. 

When asked about further details of the study, several parts were made clear by Halfmann. She stated at the beginning of the study, “Participants came into a laboratory setting and we had them set up in a kind of room that is much like a private room.” The purpose of the laboratory setting was to get rid of all outside noises and influences on the participants.

The size of the study was interesting, as the sample size was only 50 people. Halfmann clarified that this part of the study “is due to convenience. Ideally in research you are able to do a random sample, but often times what will end up happening through recruitment process is that you rely on people who are more readily accessible.” The sample size was smaller than average, because of “funding limits where we ended up only being able to collect (fMRI) data from about the 19 participants they ended up having,” stated Halfmann. 

If Halfmann were to run another study, it would be affected by COVID-19, “because of how COVID-19 has affected our social relationships and emotion regulation in that sense,” explained Halfmann. COVID-19 has an effect that changed society in ways many were not prepared for. Older studies may look very different from modern-day studies. Generations have changed, technology has advanced and new illnesses have arisen. 

Chair of the psychology department, Dr. Elizabeth Gates, responded to how COVID-19 affects studies: “In the past, we collected data in person. It made us switch really fast over to getting data online, because we couldn’t collect data in person.” COVID-19 made researchers rethink how they did things in the past. A study in the past that is similar to a study now could have completely different results. “It made doing research with older adults more difficult,” Gates stated. 

UWP student Braden Meyer responded to the question of whether changes in personality and mentality caused by outside factors occurred. Meyer said, “For doing things online, yes, because it made me realize how it actually worked and I was a lot less enthused.” 

When asked if the professors had the same or similar problem, Meyer responded “Definitely.” Meyer seemed to infer studies are currently very different than those in the past. The changes brought by time have influenced a lot of factors.  

Studies of the past and present are unique in their means of providing information to those who are curious. Students and professionals all take action to make sure they provide the best information possible. 

That being said, this study provides important information. While the information older it does take time to publish studies and information is important.