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Psychology students study romance at Adventureland

By Margo Fritz ’15

Everyone knows classes at Cornell excite the mind, but for students in the Block 1 Social Psychology course, learning got hearts pumping as well. As he has in the past, Professor Bill Dragon took students to Adventureland Amusement Park for a day to enjoy the rides and, more importantly, to conduct an experiment.

Social Psychology class at AdventurelandDragon’s interest in the psychology of romantic relationships led him to create an experimental model intent on studying the misattribution of arousal, a phenomenon that occurs when people misinterpret physical excitement and attribute it to a source other than that which caused it.

In this case, Dragon and his students hypothesized that couples would attribute the excitement caused by theme park rides to attraction to their partner. To measure this, students worked together to covertly count the number of times couples touched each other before and after riding the Space Shot, a high thrill ride.

“It was my first time working in the field, actually watching people, and it ended up being harder than I thought it would be,” said sophomore Rose Andre. “Overall, it was definitely a good experience, because you can talk about how an experiment is going to be performed, but doing it ends up being a whole different ride.”

Though their day of gathering data was challenging, students were thrilled that their observations aligned with their hypothesis as they moved on to the next step in the process—writing in-depth reports in the style of journal articles.

“I didn’t realize how applicable social psychology could be,” said junior Austin Brown. “This class got me thinking and made me pay more attention to how the people around me act and what it means.”