Project: Volunteer Science
We’ve all probably read about famous social and behavioral experiments where everyday people are asked to participate in and react to various scenarios (The Stanford Prison Experiment, or the marshmallow experiment, for example). Maybe we’ve even participated in a research study at a local university or hospital ourselves. While the results provide extremely useful insight into the human mind, conducting experiments in a traditional manner is expensive and time-consuming. The need for subjects has to be advertised, some kind of incentive is provided to convince candidates to travel to the site and give of their time, the researchers have to administer the experiment and record the data, and the the research pool has to be maintained. Not to mention, it’s sometimes difficult to find a diverse pool of participants in one geographical area, and find a day and time of the week that will work for a large group of people.
What if there were a simpler, more convenient, and less-expensive option available to social scientists who need data from human subjects? Volunteer Science may provide just that!
Volunteer Science is a “web laboratory” that allows interested citizen scientists the opportunity to get involved with a variety of social experiments. This tool with allow scientists to pull from a huge, globally-generated pool of data, thus accelerating research by speeding up collection and reducing costs. Volunteer Science is a collaboration with four well-known research universities, and they make every attempt to protect your privacy and rights as a human subject (you can read more about their specific guidelines here). You also must be 18 years or older to participate. Though the experiments take the form of games and surveys, they are very serious about maintaining the scientific integrity and ethical soundness of the information they collect through your contribution. This is real, legitimate science, folks!
When you enter the site, you have the option to play games or take surveys. Of course, in the name of science, I had to try both! I loved that there were a lot of options to choose from, and you can read the directions before you commit. The “game” (or experiment) that I chose to participate in had me playing against other players, in a “prisoner’s dilemma,” where we had to decide if we would testify against our accomplices in a crime. The survey I chose asked me a series of questions about how I would rate certain traits in myself, and then gave me a personality profile at the end (which was cool just for my own information–I’ve always had a thing for personality tests). Participation in each experiment took about 10-15 minutes, and they were both interesting and fun! If you enjoy online gaming and taking surveys, and have want to contribute to real academic behavioral studies at the same time, I’d highly recommend checking out Volunteer Science!
Photo Credit: Flickr