Q&A with Loyola University of Chicago Research Students

Q&A with Loyola University of Chicago Research Students

Professor Dinko Bačić’s “Analytical Decision Making” course at Loyola University of Chicago offers an opportunity for undergraduate students to develop and execute their own research projects using the latest biometric technologies. In this Q&A, iMotions’ Senior Strategic Account Manager Francesca Marchionne, Ph.D, speaks with students Kaitlin Walker and Ayla Lezic about their experience using iMotions to investigate the impact of subtitles on comprehension, perception and visual attention as viewers watched scenes of “The Crown.” 

This conversation offers a glimpse into the opportunities created by using iMotions in a classroom. Kaitlin and Ayla’s hands-on experience with biometric technology allowed them to pursue a research topic that aligned with their interests, design experiments that provided novel perspectives on existing research topics, and develop skills that will contribute to their professional development. 

Francesca Marchionne: What was your experience with biometric research previously? What led you to the research work you did this semester using biometrics? 

Kaitlin ​​Walker: I didn’t know anything about biometrics, but it sounded intriguing. So, I chose this course without knowing what to expect and ended up really enjoying it.

Francesca: What surprised you most as you started to get to the class and use these technologies to study people and reactions?

Ayla: For me, it was how fast the class moved and how much we accomplished in just one semester. We started with no knowledge, gained exposure to biometric research through reading and presenting studies, and eventually conducted our own research and wrote a full paper. That was the most surprising part for me.

Kaitlin: I didn’t realize how much experience I would gain in the class. The tools were surprisingly easy to use, thanks to our professor’s extensive experience and guidance.

Francesca: What was the learning curve like? 

Ayla: For the actual online tool, it took me a day to feel comfortable. For the actual tools in the lab, it took maybe two or three days. We had a training session with our professor, who showed us how to add new participants and other tasks, which was easy to pick up. The data analysis and creating the study were more challenging, requiring more help, but I feel that if I were to do this again, I could manage mostly by myself with minimal guidance.

Francesca: How did you choose your research topic?

Ayla: We brainstormed initially. Our professor showed us one of his studies on soccer games and commentary impact, which inspired us. We decided to analyze the impact of subtitles on TV shows. We debated within our group about subtitles, which some of us use daily and some find distracting. We chose “The Crown” because it’s a popular show with many scenes, making it easier to randomize and ask specific questions about different viewing experiences.

Kaitlin:Subtitles are a relevant topic today with everyone streaming content. The iMotions software allows for quick research, making it easier to address current questions effectively.

Francesca: Was there any inspiration or research you drew on as you arrived at this topic?

Ayla: We found existing research indicating that older viewers tend to dislike subtitles, while younger viewers are more accepting. We hypothesized that it wasn’t age but experience with dual-tasking, such as reading quickly on social media, that made the difference. So, we focused on social media exposure as a factor.

Kaitlin: There was conflicting research about subtitles, especially regarding age differentiation. Many studies attributed differences to age alone, but we suspected a secondary factor that surveys weren’t capturing, leading us to our focus on social media usage.

Francesca: If you didn’t have access to this technology, what would you have done or could do for this type of research?

Kaitlin: Without this technology, we would have had to choose a completely different topic. We integrated some survey-based questions, but those didn’t play a significant role in our data analysis. We would have had to rely solely on surveys, which are biased and wouldn’t provide new insights.

Ayla: Asking people if they prefer subtitles through surveys is common, and there are many existing surveys on that topic. Without biometrics, we wouldn’t have been able to study subconscious responses, which are unbiased and reveal things surveys can’t.

Francesca: What surprised you in your findings?

Kaitlin: One surprising finding was that subtitles did not detract from participants’ perception of visual elements in the scene. We expected comprehension to increase with subtitles, which was true, but perception of background details didn’t decrease and might even have increased.

Ayla: We also found that English audio with subtitles led to better content comprehension. Interestingly, participants watching Hungarian audio without subtitles, who relied on visual cues, scored lowest. We analyzed emotional responses and found that subtitles might affect emotional reactions because viewers focus more on the text than facial expressions.

Francesca: What do you think about the potential to have published research as an undergraduate student? What kind of value do you think this will bring to you in your next step? 

Kaitlin: It’s definitely shocking for me. I never expected to get published, especially as an undergraduate. Looking to the future, having this experience so young is great to have. It’s something we can show in interviews, demonstrating our experience if we want to pursue a career in research. It’s a significant experience that can help me pivot towards research and use it to support my qualifications.

Ayla: Personally, it’s crazy to me. I never would have imagined doing such extensive research and publishing a paper as an undergraduate. Like Kaitlin, I’m also interested in research in the future, and having this experience allows us to stand out. I wish more undergraduates had this opportunity.

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