Rokos Awards 2022: How do people manage their emotions through sharing with others?


Last summer, Lara Clarke (2020, Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics) took part in an internship which involved running a pair of experiments over eight weeks, asking questions about how people manage emotions by talking about them with others.

Lara explained that the project came about when she emailed her social psychology tutor to ask if there were any projects she could help with over the summer. She shares: “I was not expecting [my tutor] to reply ‘sure - what project do you want to run?’ The question was equally thrilling and terrifying. With support from the Rokos Awards to fund research, there were no limits – I could run any experiment I could dream up. It was a slightly daunting prospect, but with help from my social psychology tutor and now supervisor, Olly Robertson, and co-supervisor Danielle Shore, I decided on a pair of experiments.

The first experiment gathered over two hundred video testimonials from people talking about their everyday lives, some sharing events as socially painful as divorce and others activities as mundane as grocery shopping. In the second experiment, we took some of these video testimonials and used them as prompts for another group of people. ‘Pretend this person is your friend, what would you say in response?’ we asked them.”

Lara’s experiment sought to understand, among other things, how the type of language used in the original prompt video would affect the type of language used in the response.

She reflects that “Being involved from start to finish taught me so much. Among other things, I learned how to get ethical approval for experiments with humans, build digital experiments and recruit people to take part online, and worked on coding skills to help me analyse the data we collected.

The experience was equally valuable because of what I learned about working in a research group. I’ve learned when to ask for and incorporate other opinions, and when to advocate for my own. I particularly enjoyed learning how to share my work with different audiences. Along the way, I helped write and edit a paper, presented my research in a lab meeting, have been invited to speak at another lab group in 2023 about this work, and I’m about to do a talk about psychological research at the University of Oxford for a local school.”

Lara gives particular thanks to her supervisors for their support and guidance throughout the internship, as well as to the Rokos Foundation for making the internship possible.

Read Lara’s full report here.

The Rokos Internship Scheme, generously funded by alumnus Chris Rokos, provides full funding for academic summer internships for STEM students. Find out more here.

Lara smiling in Chapel Quad