Majoring in child development and Spanish, Albright student Sarah Hohl ’20 says she learned a lot about her field of research, and about herself, through scholarly research into “Fantasy and Reality Distinction in Young Children.”
“I personally feel that [research] gives you insight into your career and solidifies what you want to work towards for the goals you have set or create new goals, says Hohl.
“As I was conducting that research at the Albright Early Learning Center, I remember thinking, ‘this is what I want to do,’ and I realized this was a new pathway that I hadn’t thought about before.”
In mentoring Hohl on the project, advisor Justin Couchman, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Albright, offered guidance on conducting research, analyzing data, and expanding the project into a senior honors thesis.
“I think conducting research in college gives you a head start and a background in your field of study that is very beneficial in developing your own skills as a researcher and your professional skills as a graduating college student,” said Hohl.
“I realized I wanted to do more research in cognitive and developmental areas and also gain more experience in this field. It connected me to what I had wanted to do for many years, which was work with children and study how the mind develops — and allowed me to be creative and pull me out of my comfort zone, which is what I needed to do to be a good researcher.
It allowed me to use the knowledge I had gained in classes and utilize it to create preliminary research that I can continue in my future plans.”
For her study into “Fantasy and Reality Distinction in Children and Adults,” Hohl tested 29 children on their ability to understand real versus imaginary objects and attempted to improve their understanding with a short intervention. After preliminary research, as second experiment was conducted.
“Imagination is not easily defined to children because it is an abstract concept that cannot be seen to be taught. When telling a child to ‘go play with their toys,’ they need to understand what play is and how to make an inanimate object ‘come to life’ in their minds. By making an inanimate object ‘come to life’ for a child, we are developing their imagination through play.”
Looking down the road, Hohl sees real options for her future that include conducting new laboratory research or teaching as a college professor.
“My experience also helped me solidify the areas of psychology I am most interested in which is the cognitive and developmental fields. I am excited to continue research because I enjoyed my experience conducting research at Albright so much.
“If I am not researching, I would love to work in a setting where I can use the knowledge and research I have acquired to work with children or adolescents and enrich their lives.”
As part of the undergraduate experience at Albright College, students are afforded a number of opportunities to conduct research, independently, or in partnership with faculty mentors. Often, their work is presented to professionals and scholars at gatherings of organizations like the American Chemical Society, the Eastern Psychological Association and the Higher Education Council of Berks County (HECBC).