Research Highlight: Spatial Cognition Laboratory

Logan Zhang a Psychology major at the Tufts School of Arts and Sciences. He works under Professor Holly A. Taylor at the Spatial Cognition Laboratory on 490 Boston Avenue.

 

Tell me a bit about yourself. What are your interests? What’s your major?

My name is Logan Zhang, and I'm an undergraduate psychology major. I want to promote the health (particularly mental health) and well being of others, and I'm also interested in understanding how people think and feel, which is why I majored in psychology. In my free time, I like to cook and play board games and video games with friends.

 

What kind of research are you participating in now?

I'm currently doing research in the spatial cognition lab here at Tufts. We study how people visualize and interact with objects and locations in their heads-how do people navigate through a city? How do people read a map? How do people visualize and move three-dimensional objects in their heads? Particularly, we are doing research using eye tracking technology, to connect where people are looking and what visuals they're processing as they think spatially.

 

Do you design the methods, or are you following some set protocol?

I don't design the studies at the lab; I'm a research assistant so my job is primarily to collect data, record and analyze it, according to the purpose and experimental design. However, I do generally design my own methods for collecting the data. I don't really follow any set protocol anymore, since I've been working here for a while, I'm tasked with the responsibility of finding the most effective and friendly way to interact with participants and collect the data I need, and create my own procedure.

 

Are there any highlights to your research that you’d like to talk about?

An interesting bit of research we did last year was on the Mental Paper Folding test, a commonly used measure of spatial ability. I remember even taking it as a kid to determine whether or not I would get into an accelerated learning program. This test is used to measure spatial skills, and even sometimes intelligence, but our research revealed that this test doesn't measure the level of spatial ability at all. I had the opportunity to present these findings at a regional conference, and it was a great experience. I really felt like I was contributing to the field. Even as a research assistant.

 

How did you get involved with this field of research?

I looked for research opportunities on campus, in my field, online. I just picked the one that was the most appealing to me and applied.

 

What’s your goal in the long-term? How do you plan to apply your work and experiences in the future?

Hopefully I'll get to contribute to more findings in the future, like I did with the Paper Folding test. Really, this is just a great experience for me to be exposed to empirical research and get involved with the research process, the fact that I get to learn and present things is just icing on top. I hope to go into a career in healthcare, probably dentistry, so I can combine promoting the health of others with hands-on work. I'll apply to grad school after I graduate from Tufts.