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FAQs for Parents


What is the experiment about? How does it work?

We are attempting to determine whether different types of faces and other pictures are associated with different feelings. In particular, we’d like to know whether more typical faces (faces that are more “face-like”) make people feel better than faces that are less typical. To do this, we use a technique called EMG, which is essentially a computer that can measure very small emotional responses.


What will happen during my child’s appointment?

A researcher will meet you and your child in the lobby of Carnegie Hall, and he or she will go over the study with you and talk with you about exactly what is going to happen, familiarize you with our procedures, and answer any questions that you have about the study.  You will fill out some paperwork and sign a consent form.  When that is complete, you and your child will go to the experiment room.  Your child will sit in front of a computer and the experimenter will attach the EMG sensors to your child’s face.  The sensors are attached using self-adhesive collars and will feel like a sticker on their face; nothing will hurt.  The sensors are filled with a small amount of conductive gel.  After all the sensors are attached (we will use no more than 7) your child will be given instructions to press a button on the keyboard each time they see a face and another button each time they see something that is not a face.  Due to space limitations, you will be asked to leave the room but are allowed to see the stimuli after the experiment is over should you desire.  The experiment in itself is very brief and usually last 30 minutes, sometimes longer as the time it takes to attach the EMG sensors varies across individuals.


Is this dangerous?/Will it hurt?

Facial EMG has been used to detect emotions that observer cannot see for the last 25 years. It is completely safe and pain free.


I thought EMG used needles?

There is another type of EMG that doctors use to stimulate muscles by inserting a needle and electrically stimulating it. We DO NOT do this type of EMG! We are only interested in recording the body’s natural electrical output, using non-invasive sensors. Our EMG device is not capable of generating a shock.


Why is this research important?

The beauty-is-good phenomenon (that attractive people are assumed to be smarter, nicer, and friendlier than less attractive people) is one of the most supported findings in social & developmental psychology.  Recent research has provided evidence that this stereotype develops very early in life.  The more we can learn about its development, and impact may help provide solutions to its future consequences (less attractive people are less likely to receive positive job evaluations, promotions, less pay, and so on).


How long will we be there?

You should set aside an hour for the study, set-up, and paperwork, though this rarely lasts more than 45 minutes.


Can my child’s sibling(s) participate?

If they are between 11 and 15 years, then we would love to have them participate if you have the time! If they are younger or older, we will take their information so that they will be included in our database for future research.


What if I change my mind and decide I do not want my child to participate?

You may reserve the right to end the experimental session at any time. It will not affect you or your child’s standing with Pacific University nor or in the future. It is more important for us that you both have a positive experience at the Preference Development Lab, than that we collect a full set of data from every child.