Experimentation

When comes the time to actually run the experiment you have been working towards for so long it is incredibly exciting. You set up the room and prepare for the first participants to come. At this point I am usually a little be nervous too because you want everything to go smoothly and despite your preparations and pre-test the best thing for finding any kinks is just doing it. Usually everything works out fine but maybe you find something that needs a slight tweak. (For example, a wording for directions which has been clear for everyone who has been working on or at least has knowledge of your experiment is a little unclear to fresh eyes). Quickly you fall into the pattern of the procedure and it feels perfectly normal. Each session of experimentation is pretty much the same. Occasionally there is a computer problem or a participant has a question or a participant doesn’t show up but these are small blips in a standard and that is how you want it to be. You want the conditions to be as close to exactly the same as is humanly possible when running different people on different days. There is some amount of variability that is impossible to get rid of entirely but a good experiment requires the trials to be nearly indistinguishable. Of course what makes for a good experiment does not necessarily make for exciting time. Doing the same thing multiple times a day all week long can get dull and all you can really do is hope that the data you are getting is what you want it to be.

Sign-up Savior

For this experiment, we need to have at least two people come in at the same time. This can a little tiresome when coordinating and scheduling by email with so many different people. Luckily, we have found a great website called Signup Genius. It lets us create a sign-up sheet with a fixed number of slots for each time. It also some great features like an automatic reminder email the day before so that we get fewer people forgetting and not showing up. But the true selling point this website is some of the more specific settings. We can make the sign-up sheet require an access code to see so only those people we email and give a code can see it. We also can hide the names of the participants from each other so that anonymity is preserved which is so important in this study.

Ode to Qualtrics

I absolutely love Qualtrics! For those who do not know, it is a great online survey creating and hosting platform. Long have been the days when psychologists (and many other social scientists) have had to waste tons of paper by printing of hundreds of surveys on paper. Not only is that terrible for the environment but also it makes the process data preparation and cleaning before analysis quite the headache. With Qualtrics, it is all online so no paper is wasted and neat sheets of results can be created. You can look at a look at a specific participant’s answers for all the questions or all the answers for a particular question.

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Spit Safety

Fun fact: Human salvia is consisted to be a bio-hazard and research that involves the collection of it must follow certain safety procedures. As such, I and my fellow research assistants who will be helping me to collect salvia samples attended a safety briefing put on by a Safety Specialist from Environmental Health and Safety. It is not so much the salvia which is the concern but the potential for the salvia to contain blood and the transmission of blood-borne pathogens. In the briefing, we learned about some these pathogens and the procedures to prevent transmission, including the proper way to take gloves. Remember, “Dirty to dirty, clean to clean.”

Recruitment

When you are conducting an experiment about human social behavior a crucial requirement is having people to participant in your study. In the psychology lab I work at, we are creating a participant pool which we can draw from if they fulfill the necessary requirements of the particular study we are conducting. This is simply done by, at the end of all our studies, asking if they would to sign up for future studies. Though this we have most of the people we need. However, most of them are students and most students leave campus during the summer. So to recruit participants, I posted flyers around campus. Since we pay our participants for their time we do not have much trouble getting the people we need.