Crowdsourcing for Cognitive Science

Crowdsourcing for Cognitive Science – The Utility of Smartphones.
Brown HR, Zeidman P, Smittenaar P, Adams RA, McNab F, et al.
PLoS ONE (2014), 9(7): e100662.

We developed an app named ‘The Great Brain Experiment’ for smartphones that enabled participants to perform four standard experimental paradigms presented in the guise of short games.

a sixteen-fold increase in the rate of data collection over a previous attempt at smartphone data collection. We speculate this increase might potentially be due to the ‘gamification’ of the experimental paradigms and efforts to package the app in a stylish, engaging format.

capturing of attention through social media, which was enabled by making the app both attractive and presenting it as a citizen science project

Citizen science projects have harnessed the goodwill of internet users to undertake complex data analysis, such as classifying the shapes of galaxies [20], finding optimal protein folding configurations [21], tracking neurons through the retina [22] and deciphering archived manuscripts [23]. Other authors have used Mechanical Turk [24], a service which allows crowdsourcing of short computer-based tasks, to generate human psychological and psychophysical data.

What experiments can be translated to smartphone games?
All four of the experiments we chose had to carefully compromise between obtaining good experimental data and providing an enjoyable user experience.

Limitations of smartphone experiments:
The development of an app is substantially more technically specialised than producing a similar experiment in dedicated psychophysics software, meaning the process likely needs to be outsourced, increasing development time