Nuffield internship: How the sequence of events in a sentence affects people's understanding


Through the Nuffield Foundation, we have had the fantastic opportunity to carry out a 4 week psychology research placement at the University of Manchester's LuCiD Child Study Centre. During our placement, our main task was to carry out an experiment looking at children’s (aged 7-10) and adult’s comprehension of complex sentences with adverbial clauses and how the sequence of events in the sentence affects their understanding of it.

Using an opportunity sample, we recruited participants at the Manchester Museum to complete the experiment. Participants first listened to a couple of sentences and were then asked to select the matching picture story. For example, if they heard “Sue paints the old fence. Before she paints the old fence, she hoovers the house”, the participants were then presented with one picture story showing a person painting the fence and then hoovering the house, and another picture story of them hoovering the house first and then painting the fence. The participant would have to select which story matched the description. After this, participants also did a digit span task: They had to repeat increasingly long lists of digits forwards and backwards as a memory test.

This has been a valuable experience to me and has given me true insight into how psychological research is carried out in the real world, allowing me to apply the theory that I have learnt in school to real life. Experiencing research first hand has also taught me about the difficulties and complications researchers may be faced with when carrying out an experiment that we don’t always recognise when learning about psychological research, and we were challenged with deciding how these may be overcome. I am hoping to study psychology at university so this experience has helped to prepare me for this by giving me research skills as well as further knowledge of this fascinating subject.

By Eilidh Shaw


Through this placement, I was able to gain first-hand experience of scientific research and how it works. Even though my career option differs from psychology, this placement allowed me to work with real researchers and carry out an experiment myself. During my time at LuCiD, we mainly focused on investigating the role of information structure in children’s understanding of complex sentences, for which we needed to recruit as many participants as we could at The Manchester Museum, which proved to be a challenge. However, with the help and support of the supervisors and other researchers, we were able to tackle such problems and find an effective solution for it. By the end of the placement, I had somewhat experienced the amount of hard work researchers carry out behind the scenes, which appears to be imperceptible as we only focus on their findings and fail to acknowledge the years of research.

By Meerab Mazhar

We would like to thank everybody at LuCiD for being so supportive and providing such a welcoming environment! We would also like to thank the Museum for letting us conduct the experiment there.

Eilidh and Meerab will present the results of the experiment at the Nuffield Research Placement Event on November 13th, at the University of Manchester.



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