Field of Science

Finding guinea pigs

One problem that confronts nearly every cognitive science researcher is attracting participants. This is less true perhaps for vision researchers, who can sometimes get away with testing only themselves and their coauthors, but it is definitely a problem for people who conduct Web-based research, which often needs hundreds or even thousands of participants.

Many researchers when they start conducting experiments on the Internet are tempted to offer rewards for participation. It's too difficult to pay everybody, so this is often done in the context of a lottery (1 person will win $100). This seems like an intuitive strategy, since we usually attract participants to our labs by offering money or making it a requirement for passing an introductory psychology course.

If you've been reading the top stories lately, you might have noticed a recent study by University of Florida researchers, which suggested that people -- well, UF undergrads -- are less likely to give accurate information to websites which offered rewards.

Although these data are in largely in the context of marketing, this suggests that using lotteries to attract research participants on the Web may actually be backfiring.

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