During the spring semester at Neosho County Community College, a student and a professor paired up and accomplished a series of firsts at the school.
Anthony Schettler, a sophomore this past spring, and Mark Johnston, assistant professor in the psychology department, wanted to conduct a research project assessing the relationship of dream frequency and vividness to the personality trait of openness.
Openness is a basic personality trait denoting receptivity to new ideas and new experiences.
People with high levels of openness are more likely to seek out a variety of experiences, be comfortable with the unfamiliar, and pay more attention to their inner feelings than those who have lower levels of the trait.
“The whole purpose of the project was to determine if people who have the open trait have these more vivid dreams,” Johnston said. “That way when they go to therapy and describe these dreams, we will have a better understanding of how to interpret their dreams.”
While planning and conducting this project, Schettler led the first student-initiated research project in the psychology department. The duo also became the first to use an Institutional Review Board (IRB) and it was the first research project to use human subjects at the college.
The project included 54 students who took two surveys. One was to calculate their personality traits and the other Schletter and Johnston came up with to analyze dreams.
The 54 students were then broken into three groups (high, moderate and low) based on their degrees of openness. The comparison was made between the people who rated high on openness and the people who rated on the lower end of the scale.
“The study found several statistically significant differences that demonstrated that those high in openness dream more and have more vivid dreams than those low on the trait. The findings strengthen earlier work in the field and could be used to help therapists treat patients in understanding their unconscious mind as expressed in dreams,” Johnston said.
In addition to doing the project, Johnston went to Dr. Sarah Robb, vice president of student learning, and explained how the project would need a review board.
“The reviewers look for any dangers to the participants in the study and to ensure that the work is representative of NCCC’s goals. Dr. Robb enthusiastically agreed to assemble the IRB,” Johnston said. “Students taking psychology classes learn about some of the significant dangers of doing research with human subjects. Early work in the field sometimes left people worse off than they were before participating in such studies.”
Schletter, who graduated as the Outstanding Psychology student this spring, said the project was very helpful to him.
“Working in research is tough, but rewarding,” he said. “Working with scientific language gave me a broader view into how much detail goes into research as a whole.”
Schletter will attend Pittsburg State University in the fall to become a clinical psychologist.
This is not a typical project that takes place at the community college level.
Johnston, who is from Parsons, accepted his position at NCCC this past August and vowed to get students involved in research projects.
“Anthony was my guinea pig of sorts. He was the first student to do something like this on this campus. But I couldn’t have had a better student to do this project with,” Johnston said. “And he now has a leg up going to a four-year institution. Throughout the years, I noticed students that came from community colleges were a little behind. Students at four-year schools, while they don’t pick the projects, they do get to participate.
“When Anthony went in for his interview at Pitt State they were amazed he had already run a project and because of that, he will more than likely get to pick his research projects in the future.”
Johnston will run several more projects with his students in the future, which will allow them to receive sometimes more instruction than that at four-year universities.