AP Biology Students Share the Inside Scoop on their Behavior Experiments


Ari Stein, Staff Writer

Every year AP Biology students conduct a lab from scratch called the Behavioral Experiment lab. This lab is the highlight of AP Biology for most students and allows students to research human, animal, or plant behaviors.

“Students are expected to research a particular topic, develop a hypothesis about it, design and perform an experiment to test it, and then analyze their data to evaluate their hypothesis,” AP Biology teacher Sharat Gadde said. “Basically, I want students to do an experiment in which neither they nor I know what the results will be.” This lab comes with no instructions or a worksheet; the only help is advice from Gadde.

In past years, student projects have ranged from which gender looks in the mirror more to how plants grow in different conditions. One group even researched willingness to participate in a phone survey based on prestige of institution calling.

Senior Evan McAvenia and her group investigated if highlighting a textbook is beneficial. Most students have their AP European History or AP US History textbook fully highlighted and color coded, but is it actually helpful? McAvenia tested freshmen by having them read the same AP US History passage, but only half of them highlighted the text.

The next day, they were quizzed. After many calculations, it was determined there was no significant difference in the quiz scores.  “I like this lab because it is relevant to my life and will easily be able to help others,” McAvenia said.

Another group used this lab to find out how willing people are to take risks when they have a certain expectation on negative or positive consequences.  On Facebook, senior Hanna Abruzzo and her group sent out a survey with different questions with different risks (betting on a baseball game, taking a hard class, stopping for gas at a sketchy gas station, etc.) and asked the participants if they would go through with the decision or not.

“It’s interesting to get the different perspectives,” Abruzzo said. The results concluded that manipulating the phrasing of a question affects people’s decisions, but to a certain extent. Most people would pick an answer to certain questions regardless of the perceived negative consequences, such as helping their pet or getting help in a flood.

Senior Alyssa Henderson and her group decided they wanted to do something regarding society’s influence on people’s ideas. “For our experiment, we wrote two profiles of a family. In one, the mother stayed at home and the father worked, and in the other, the mother worked and the father stayed at home,” Henderson said. “They were otherwise identical. We asked questions about the family members to see how perceptions differ based on the gender of the parent taking on each role.”

Henderson and her group found that attitudes towards gender were evenly distributed, but, in general, people had a more positive response to stay-at-home parents than to working parents.