Background

At the Black Box ToolKit we specialize in helping you achieve millisecond accurate presentation, synchronization, and response timing in your computer-based psychology experiments. Here are just a few of the things that can stop you doing just that!


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Conditional biases and unaccounted for interactions in psychology experiments


Unbeknown to you systematic conditional biases in your computer-based psychology experiment could account for your whole experimental effect. An unintended consequence of unknown biases is the classic file drawer problem in psychological research.

Replication lies at the heart of good science and the scientific method. Repeatability is key. If you think you are holding all other variables constant but later find out many more variables were at play where does that leave your findings and your reputation?

One classic example from our own testing was in a cross modal priming study where it was discovered that on trials where a visual stimulus was presented alongside audio there was a systematic discrepancy in measured reaction time. This error was due to the fact that the software running the experiment could not reliably process the onset of a reaction time while a sound was playing. Without independently checking with a Black Box ToolKit v2 the researcher would have assumed that the experimental effect was real as might you in your own study.

In the case of the cross model priming study the equipment was setup as shown below (Apple Mac). Three Black Box ToolKit v2 opto-detectors monitored for any one of three stars appearing on screen, two digital microphones checked for a sound presentation and an Active Switch Closure was wired into the studies regular response box. When a visual stimulus appeared a response was generated after 300 milliseconds. As can be seen from the summary results there was a clear systematic conditional bias!



Schematic of how the studies timing was validated using a Black Box ToolKit 2.


Measure Expected RT (mS) Observed Mean RT (mS)
Star duration 200 196.46
Tone duration 200 210.66
Tone synchrony to star: 0 6.38

50 56.88

100 106.62
Reaction Time (no tone) 300 304.58
Reaction Time (tone present) 300 321.78


References
Self-validating presentation and response timing in cognitive paradigms: how and why?, Richard R Plant, Nick Hammond, Garry Turner. Behavior research methods, instruments, & computers : a journal of the Psychonomic Society, Inc. 06/2004; 36(2):291-303.
PsychFileDrawer.org: Archive of Replication Attempts in Experimental Psychology

About company


The Black Box Toolkit Ltd was founded in 2003 by a team of psychologists, software experts and electronic engineers.


Dedicated to improving the millisecond timing accuracy and experimental rigor of researchers in the behavioral and brain sciences.

We provide hardware, software and consultancy solutions across a wide range of fields to make this a reality. Print flyer

Get in Touch

  • Phone:
    +44 (0)114 3030056
  • Email:
    info@blackboxtoolkit.com
  • Address:
    The Black Box ToolKit Ltd,
    PO Box 3802, Sheffield,
    S25 9AG, UK