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SURF: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty and JPL technical staff for the SURF program. Additional AOs for the Amgen Scholars program can be found here.

Specific GROWTH projects being offerred for summer 2018 can be found here.

Each AO indicates whether or not it is open to non-Caltech students. If an AO is NOT open to non-Caltech students, please DO NOT contact the mentor.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor.

Announcements for external summer programs are listed here.

Students pursuing opportunities at JPL must be
U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

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Project:  Decoding Interpersonal Curiosity
Disciplines:  Data Science, Behavioral Science
Mentor:  Colin Camerer, Robert Kirby Prof. of Behavioral Economics, (HSS), , Phone: 6263954054
AO Contact:  Anastasia Buyalskaya,
Background:  Human curiosity is a subject which has been surprisingly under-studied in decision and social neuroscience. Curiosity can be broken out into multiple sub-categories, including perceptual curiosity (an innate, “animalistic” response to novel stimuli) and epistemic curiosity (a “higher level” desire for information, often associated with scientific discovery and academic achievement). In this research, we focus on yet another category, referred to as interpersonal curiosity: the drive to learn more information about other individuals. A better understanding of interpersonal curiosity will shed light on many open questions in decision neuroscience: for example, why do people choose to read news stories about certain individuals and not others? Why are relatable individuals (role models) so influential in inspiring similar others to join certain networks? How does peer pressure and social anxiety affect individual decision making?
Description:  1 SURF is sought to work in partnership with a PhD student in conducting a very large online labor market (MTurk) study to test the “path of interpersonal curiosity.” We will examine whether the voluntary seeking of information about others follows the same “inverted-U” shape as seen in studies of epistemic curiosity, or whether additional information is likely to increase an individual’s curiosity about another (familiarity heuristic). The first part of the study will entail conducting a brief literature review to identify a robust set of n traits which have obvious complement(s) (i.e. gender, age, nationality) and can be collected from participants via survey. The second part will entail designing short narratives (i.e. a news story) and coding up simulations which will auto-fill the narratives with a portion of similar (0, 1,…,n-1, n) traits and a portion of complementary (n, n-1,…,1,0) traits – which will be run with a large group of participants online. The third part will entail running statistical analysis to determine which combinations of similar and complementary traits produced “peak” levels of interpersonal curiosity, as well as examining individual differences between participants (using psychometric assessments which they will be requested to complete online).
References:  1. BERLYNE, D. E. "A THEORY OF HUMAN CURIOSITY." British Journal of Psychology. General Section 45.3 (1954): 180-191. Web.
2. Loewenstein, George. "The Psychology Of Curiosity: A Review And Reinterpretation.." Psychological Bulletin 116.1 (1994): 75-98. Web.
3. Kang, Min Jeong et al. "The Wick In The Candle Of Learning: Epistemic Curiosity Activates Reward Circuitry And Enhances Memory." SSRN Electronic Journal (2008): n. pag. Web.
4. Kidd, Celeste, and Benjamin Y. Hayden. "The Psychology And Neuroscience Of Curiosity." Neuron 88.3 (2015): 449-460. Web.
5. Litman, Jodan A., and Mark V. Pezzo. “Dimensionality of Interpersonal Curiosity.” Personality and Individual Differences 43.6 (2007): 1448-1459. Web.
Student Requirements:  Required: Fluent English speaker; creative, enthusiastic and hard-working; comfortable programming in Java, Python or in another language used for online simulations.

Desirable: Matlab, Psych Toolbox, Experience with MTurk studies.
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    both Caltech and non-Caltech students 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.

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