Angela Zhong is a rising second-year majoring in Psychology and Neuroscience with a minor in Data Science. She plans to study emotional regulation and relationship dynamics between parents and their children.

Tell me about your SURG topic.

Zhong: I had a few discussions with my principal investigator. I was interested in three to four different topics and then she helped me narrow down to this one. I’m studying empathic accuracy – how good people are at empathizing with others. I’m specifically looking at parents and children. I find it really important because we’ve all been children. It’s really different if your parents are supportive and empathic and when they’re not. That’s important for a parental relationship and, in a greater sense, it impacts how you would form a relationship with others in your later life. If your parents are brutal and cold or ignorant, then you probably can’t form a really good intimate relationship with future partners or friends. I also want to look at the more quantitative component because I’m more STEM-ish. I don’t want to look at just subjective experiences. I added a component called parasympathetic nervous system activity, so physiological activity in general. Specifically, I’ll be looking at the heart rate. There’s actually a lot of studies saying that when you’re empathizing with someone else, your physio activity actually matches. If our heart rate gets similar, then it means that we’re probably experiencing a lot of things similarly.

What is the most interesting part of this research?

Zhong: Up to now, the most interesting part is definitely brainstorming. We had multiple projects in the past and past data. People use the same data to do different things. For me, the most interesting part is how I can use the data that there is to study something that I was interested in. You can come up with a thousand different research questions using the same project’s data. I did not realize that before. I always thought you have to come with a research question and then you collect data. But you can actually play with the data that’s already collected and then study something from it. That was a new realization that I made and that was the fun part.

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