Outreach Event: Explore Your Universe!

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What was the first science experiment you ever conducted? When did you first think about thinking? Were you in awe the first time you saw an illusion?

Well, this past Sunday, Psychology in Action participated in UCLA’s annual Explore Your Universe Event – a scientific expo for the community to come and learn about the brain, behavior, fossils, rockets, chemistry, and more! There were over 5,000 attendees of all ages at the event, and in particular, several K-12 students came as a part of school courses. Outreach Coordinators Jenna Cummings and Nicco Riggente organized PIA’s involvement in the event, thanks to a connection made by PIA member Britt Ahlstrom.

PIA’s contribution to the event was to help visitors to explore the universe of their own mind. As attendees dropped by our station, we ignited interest in the neural underpinnings of behavior:

Cognitive psychology students Adam Blake and Suzy Carrigan tricked audience members with classic visual illusions, some you can check out here and here. Parents and children alike were captivated by the brain’s abilities and inabilities to perceive what was actually on the screen – with people staying to watch the same illusion more than once just because they could not believe it!

Clinical, health, developmental, and social psychology students Christine Moody, Josie Menkin, Jenna Cummings, Tran Din, and Leah Lessard guided the younger children to draw their own brain and learn which areas were involved in perception (and why they were tricked by the illusions). The children were always shocked to learn that the occipital lobe – integral to vision – is actually located in the back of their brain! Also, the graduate students got the crowd laughing by testing the crowd’s ability to say the word purple when it was written in green with the classic Stroop task.

All in all, the event was beneficial to the community – reminding PIA graduate students and attendees alike just how AWE-some psychological science is! Thanks to all the PIA contributors!