Information for Parents



As part of the educational experience at Harvard University, we invite students to participate in studies run by researchers in the Psychology Department at Harvard. We hope to enhance students’ learning experience by providing detailed information about psychological research through these studies.

If your child is between 14 and 17 years of age and he or she wants to participate in Psychology studies at Harvard, your child must have written permission from you before participating in our studies.

To grant your son or daughter permission to participate in these studies, please print a copy of the Parental Permission Form (pdf) and follow the instructions on the form to return a copy to the Study Pool Coordinator, and give a copy to your son or daughter.

All students are eligible to earn compensation or may choose to participate as volunteers in studies that interest them. Students enrolled in participating psychology classes may be asked to take part in psychology studies to earn course credit, but students who do not want to participate in studies will be given other assignments by their course instructor.

More Information for Parents


What is the Study Pool?

The Harvard Psychology Department administers the Study Pool -- a Web site where people can sign up to participate in current research studies run by members of the department. The Study Pool serves both to introduce students and members of the community to the process of psychological research and to provide members of the department with participants for their research studies.

Participation is completely voluntary, and refusal to participate involves no penalty or loss of benefits to students. Also, if a student agrees to participate, he or she may discontinue participation at any time without penalty.

Students can see a list of available studies in the Psychology Department by logging into the Online Study Web site. Students can read descriptions of each study and then sign up for any studies that interest them. Students may earn payment for many studies or course credit if they are enrolled in a participating psychology course.

All studies have been approved by Harvard University’s Committee on the Use of Human Subjects. In addition, the Study Pool Security Policy requires that students be given a numeric code when they register to participate in studies, so their responses in these studies will remain confidential.

Participation in Psychology studies does not influence any decision regarding future admissions to Harvard University.

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What Happens in a Study?

Your son or daughter may choose to participate in many kinds of studies. Studies may be designed to examine topics such as decision making, memory skills, and emotional, visual, and cognitive processes. Students may complete a study alone, or may be asked to participate with other people. Most studies are between 30 minutes and two hours long.

Before each study begins, a researcher explains what the participant will be asked to do and gives the participant a chance to ask questions. Every participant will be asked to sign a Consent Form (Sample Consent Form), but participation is voluntary, and a participant may decide at any time to stop taking part in a study. The participant will still receive partial credit or payment for their time spent on the study.

Different studies involve different types of activities, for example:

  • Filling out surveys or questionnaires
  • Viewing a video
  • Playing a game
  • Participating in an interviews or other verbal behavioral measures
  • Completing different types of task on a computer

Some studies use direct sensors (e.g., a blood pressure device) or remote sensors (e.g., a video-camera) to measure the participant's physiological and psychological reactions to the study situation.

We try to ensure that these studies are educational. At then end of each study, participants receive a Debriefing document (Sample Debriefing) which includes a summary of the study, the hypotheses, a brief description of the measures used, and a reference for further reading on the topic. The Debriefing also contains information on how to contact the researchers if the participant has questions about the study or would like a summary report on the research when and if it is published.

If you want to know more about the kinds of studies available, you can click the link to the Online Sign-up Web site where you can create an account and view the current list of studies.

Note: If your son or daughter is under 18 years of age at the time of their participation, they will NOT be invited to participate in the following kinds of studies:

  • Procedures that entail a risk of physical harm.
  • Procedures that involve hypnosis or unusual degrees of mental stress.
  • Procedures that elicit information about activities that may be illegal or that are likely to offend prevailing standards of morality.

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Giving Your Permission

If your child is between 14 and 17 years of age and he or she wants to participate in Psychology studies at Harvard, your child must have written permission from you before participating in our studies.

After you sign the Parental Permission Form (pdf), please follow the instructions on the form and return a copy with your signature by mail, FAX, or email to the Study Pool Coordinator. This form will be kept in a file maintained by the Study Pool Coordinator, but you should also give a copy to your son or daughter.

If you have questions about the Permission Form or the studies being run in the Psychology Department, please contact the Study Pool Coordinator by email ( or by phone (617-495-3891).

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For Parents of Infants or Toddlers

If you are a parent of an infant or toddler and would like to participate with your child in studies being conducted in the Developmental Lab, please visit the Laboratory for Developmental Studies for details on how to sign up.

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Harvard University Home | Psychology Department Home

Psychology Study Pool at Harvard University
228 William James Hall
33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Info: 617.495.3891

Contact the Study Pool Coordinator


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