Understanding Your Audience: Communicating your research

Throughout the Brackenridge fellowship, I have been challenged to understand and communicate my research based on the audience. Overall, this is an essential skill, for the way I explain my research to someone whose a professional in the psychology field versus a colleague in a different discipline is going to be completely different. Communicating my research in a careful way that still sounds intelligent but understandable to the audience is challenging, but here is how I have grown to communicate my research more effectively.

If you are a person who has ever watched a TEDx Talk, then you understand how someone so intelligent can explain their research in an interesting and captivating way, but the audience is able to understand the complexities of the topic. One of the major techniques utilized is metaphors or comparisons. If you are able to apply your topic to something that a general audience is familiar with, then it is easier for the audience to relate and empathize with the research being conducted. For example, I am studying 18- and 24- month old infant engagement with gendered objects. If I relate the relevance of my research to something a relatable experience, people will have an easier time understanding my goals.

In the United States, gender roles have such a major concern. Even before the baby is born, baby reveal parties are a common practice where the parents reveal the sex of the infant and attribute that to the gender identity of a girl or a boy. Also, right when a child is born, they are wrapped in a hypothetical pink or blue blanket symbolizing how their sex culturally is interpreted and the expectations that come from this identity. Influences from parents, daycares, and media may affect a child’s understanding of how their gender role affects their behaviors and preferences. During free play, I look at behaviors such as rough and light play which can be attributed to behaviors such as throwing or hugging toys. Preferences are analyzed based on how feminine or masculine the objects infants choose to play with. Based on the preferences and behaviors of infants, I can understand how infants understand their role and if that matches gendered expectations.

Explaining research is different when you explain it to someone who is well-versed in the field versus who is not. I have been used to explaining my research to people who are in my lab and have prior knowledge of infant development. I have had the opportunities to learn from others how to explain my research in a relatable way, so I can expand the audience I can communicate my research.

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