Lightning-fast research online

Last fall I attended a talk by one of the other students at my university (Harvard). He was discussing recent results from a perception experiment he had posted online. He said he had over a thousand subjects. "How long have you had this experiment online," I asked him. "Just over a week," he responded.

"Holy crap!" I thought. There are many experiments I would love to do except they require hundreds or thousands of subjects -- something that just isn't feasible in a traditional laboratory setting. So I started the Visual Cognition Online Laboratory. I am getting respectable traffic after one week, but it's going to take a while before I am getting 1,000 participants per week, which is what I need.

Most experiments, I should say, are surveys. What this grad student and I are doing is putting up actual perception experiments, which are always done in the lab. Most researchers believe you need strong controls in timing, display, etc., in order to do perception experiments. For some, this is true, but there are many you can do online given how much bandwidth there is now. Also, if you have enough subjects, that extra noise will wash out.

If you are interested in trying out one of my experiments, they typically take 5 minutes or less.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

Thanks for posting this. I took the test and it was interesting to do. I won't spill the beans on what it is about but I would love it if you could post the result back here once you finish your study. Good luck on getting 2000 participants.

posted on Tue, 03/06/2007 - 11:29am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

That was totally fun, and I'm curious about your results.

I had a hard time using just visual memory. I constantly found myself trying to do a few things at once or otherwise cheat! (Hope that doesn't give too much away.)

Post back, please?

posted on Tue, 03/06/2007 - 11:46am
vacognition.'s picture

Thank you both for participating. Check back at the site in the future for results, or sign up for the vacognition Google Group. There is a link from several parts of the website ( I won't send out emails often (I haven't sent any yet!) -- just when there are results to report or a new experiment to try.

posted on Fri, 03/09/2007 - 11:11am
vacognition's picture

Results from this study have been published. Read more at the Cognition and Language Lab blog.

posted on Wed, 07/23/2008 - 9:17pm

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