Psychophysics @ Home

The COVID-19 lockdown has pushed us to find new ways of connecting and collaborating. 

Our ways of working are changing, from free online conferences to Zoom drinks with colleagues from around the world. Why not bring our experiments online as well? 

In a tweet last month, Micah suggested that we take this opportunity to do each other’s experiments at home:

The basic idea is this: let’s get our experiments online, and share them to collect data, check robustness over platforms and get feedback on them. Since many perception scientists are already sitting at home with a testing laptop, we could start to pool our time and energy to get some research done! 

As well as helping us acquire data during this time, by sharing our experimental scripts and discussing ways of conducting psychophysical and behavioural experiments remotely, we’ll be able to assemble a set of guidelines to help others do it in the future. We like to think of this project as a kind of guerrilla, low overhead “psychophysics accelerator”. By sharing experimental scripts directly, we can optimize them on our screens at home, and carry on developing tasks and collecting data even during the shut-down. Afterwards, Psychophysics @ Home might even become a lasting community resource! 

Of course, for many cognition experiments you may want to use Gorilla, Pavlovia, PsychoJS (i.e., PsychoPy) or other online testing tools, particularly for full blown experiments with random sampling. These are great, and there have recently been a number of discussions and resources made available, including a ‘virtual chinrest to control stimulus size and viewing distance remotely. We imagine Psychophysics @ Home to be more for piloting, testing, and collaborating on tasks where you may already have optimized code, or where you may need more rigorous control over visual presentation, response timing, and other experimental factors common in psychophysics experiments. And more simply, many in the community may not have the time or expertise to port these experiments to a fully online setting. So let’s staircase together! 

To get started, we’ve created an open slack channel so we can discuss how to share experiments and structure the initiative. We imagine that most experiments will be fairly standard psychophysics projects, i.e. with more trials than subjects in within-subject designs, as these are the most suited to this kind of testing. To share tasks, just use your favourite presentation tool (PsychoPy, Matlab, etc.), detail the dependencies (libraries, toolboxes), and running instructions, and recruit some users from the pool. We suggest that users participate in at least as many experiments as they expect to recruit subjects for. Since most tasks would be run in a few subjects (~10) there should be plenty of testing time to go around. We suggest creating separate channels for individual projects, to keep the #general channel readable. But it will also be nice to hear from the community and see what we can come up with. You can join here: 

Psychophysics @ Home Slack channel:

We’re looking forward to see your experiments!

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