Crowdsourcing for Cognitive Science – The Utility of Smartphones

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This 2014 article focuses on crowd-sourced information on smartphones. The article is based on a large-scale collaborative study by seven researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of Birmingham. In their study, the authors investigated whether the mass collection of experimental data using smartphone technology is valid, given the variability of data collection outside of a laboratory setting. They presented four classic experimental paradigms as short games, available as a free app. Over the first month, 20,800 users submitted data. The authors found that the large sample size vastly outweighed the noise inherent in collecting data outside a controlled laboratory setting, and their experiments demonstrated that for all four games canonical results were reproduced. The authors argue that smartphone technology presents a huge opportunity for cognitive science as a medium for rapid, large-scale experimentation and data collection.

This article will be of use to PVE researchers and practitioners interested in using for smart-phones to solicit crowd-sourced information, particularly from large sample groups. The authors highlight that cost and logistics limit most study populations to small samples, restricting the experimental questions that can be addressed. They claim theirs as the first study to provide experimental validation for the use of smartphones for data collection in cognitive science, which can lead to the collection of richer data sets and a significant cost reduction as well as provide an opportunity for efficient phenotypic screening of large populations.

Harriet R. Brown, Peter Zeidman, Peter Smittenaar, Rick A. Adams, Fiona MacNab, Robb B. Rutledge, and Raymond J. Dolan

July 2014