When Kate Petrova '20 saw a tweet about customers leaving negative online reviews about scented candles, the psychology major with an interest in data visualization had to dig a little deeper.
The original tweet by Terri Nelson pointed out the bad reviews and she wondered whether the reviewers were "feeling a little hot and nothing has much taste for the last couple of days too."
Kate, who is currently a research assistant working with Professor of Psychology Marc Schulz on the Harvard Study of Adult Development, took things a step further, tweeting several charts, including one that showed that since the beginning of 2020, customer satisfaction with scented candles has been dropping at a much greater rate than the satisfaction with unscented candles.
Another chart showed that the proportion of reviews mentioning lack of scent grew from less than two percent in January to close to six percent in November.
Kate's top tweet now has more than 30,000 likes and nearly 13,000 retweets. It's also caught the attention of more traditional media outlets including The Washington Post, Newsweek and Business Insider.
"This was a fun project that I never expected to generate any interest outside of my Twitter followers (who are mostly psychologists and data scientists)," she wrote in an email. "I'm happy that I was able to highlight the potential of data visualization but just because an explanation seems plausible or intuitive does not mean that it is necessarily correct, which is why additional work will need to be done if we really want to know if there is an association between COVID cases and negative reviews of scented products. I will leave it up to other scientists, who are better equipped to answer this question, to decide if it is worth pursuing further."
Kate majored in psychology and minored in neuroscience at Bryn Mawr.