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Justin Grady: 2022 Undergraduate Research Excellence Award Winner

FABBS is delighted to highlight the exceptional work of young scholars. The FABBS Undergraduate Research Excellence Awards acknowledge and honor undergraduate student investigators who have conducted research of superior quality  with broader societal impact.

The opportunity to nominate students for these awards is offered to our Departmental and Division Affiliates. This year, nominations were reviewed by a committee of current and former FABBS Board members, including Drs. Jeffrey Schall, Frances Gabbay, and Adriana Galván. The committee was impressed with the strength of the applicants and inspired by the preview of the future of our sciences.

We are excited to introduce you to Justin Grady, winner of an Undergraduate Research Excellence Award.

Q: Please introduce yourself (School, grad year, hometown, etc) 

My name is Justin Grady, and I just finished my third year as an undergraduate student at The George Washington University. At GW, I study psychology and conduct research in addition to being the starting goalkeeper for the varsity men’s soccer team. I grew up in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, which is a suburb just outside of North Philadelphia.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about your area of research?

My area of research has to do with visual cognition, and more specifically visual search. My lab draws behavioral visual search data from the Airport Scanner mobile game, and we are able to form some great studies with access to millions of trials. My specific project has to do with fatigue’s negative impact on visual search and how conscientiousness impacts this relationship. The results from this primary study show that more conscientious individuals are not as susceptible to the negative impacts of fatigue on search accuracy. With future studies, I hope to dive deeper into this relationship.

Q: What inspired your interest in this topic?

What inspired my interest in this topic was the unique opportunity to study something with such tangible consequences. My advisor, Dr. Stephen Mitroff has been conducting work in the visual search field for a long time, and I was immediately impressed with the real-world implications of his work. Finding my niche within Dr. Mitroff’s lab has been exciting and extremely fulfilling. I’m happy to contribute to the body of visual search literature, and conducting research with such direct real-world applications has been fun. I hope to keep diving deeper with this topic and push for more studies and papers for as long as I can.

Q: Any exciting or surprising findings in your research? 

One surprising finding from this study was that more conscientious participants did not have to sacrifice response time in order to maintain accuracy when fatigued. The literature on the topic generally suggests that in these sort of visual search tasks, people tend to only hold accuracy or response time to a higher performance level. Future work may explore this more to find out whether the task simply was not strenuous enough, or if the way that conscientious individuals conduct search is fundamentally different than their less conscientious counterparts.

Q: This award recognizes the broader impact of your work. What are the societal implications from your work?

The societal impacts of this work are clear. The primary finding from this study shows that more conscientious individuals are not as susceptible to the negative impact of fatigue on search accuracy. In real-world search professions where margins are extremely thin and mistakes could have extremely negative outcomes, every aspect of performance matters. In light of this research, it begs the question of whether employers should take an individual differences measure such as conscientiousness into account when making hiring and staffing decisions.

Q: What’s next? Do you plan to continue your education/research on this subject?

I plan to continue this line of research in my upcoming senior year at GW. The literature suggests a speed-accuracy tradeoff as an explanation for fatigue related performance decrements, but my study found no such trade-off. Further, the performance measure (either speed or accuracy) predicted to suffer is commonly linked within the literature to the pacing of the task (self-pacing vs. experimenter-pacing). The Airport Scanner mobile game seems to fall somewhere in the middle of these two conditions, so future efforts will explore a task that is strictly experimenter-paced and compare this to a task that is completely self-paced.

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