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|2017 Leading Edge Workshop|
Beyond the lab: using big data to discover principles of cognition
July 9-12, 2017
With more than 100 years of collective practice, experimental psychologists have become highly sophisticated in their application of well-controlled laboratory experiments to reveal principles of human cognition and behavior. This approach has yielded rigorous experimental designs with extensive controls and it should be valued and encouraged. But the very expertise with which psychologists wield their tools for achieving laboratory control may now be limiting our field to the ways in which we can discover principles of cognition by going beyond the lab.
This workshop will focus on two “beyond the lab” approaches that have seen explosive growth in the last five years (for example, in just 2015 about 7000 scholarly articles made use of the Amazon Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing service). The first focus is on extending traditional laboratory techniques beyond the lab. These include the use of crowdsourcing services to conduct experiments of the type that are impractical or impossible to conduct in the lab, “gamifying” traditional data-collection such that participants actively want to participate in our studies, and organizing contests as a way of efficiently exploring the solution space to projects that are beyond the capabilities of a single research team. The second focus is on using “naturally occurring datasets” wherein creative interrogation of a diverse range of large, real-world data sets can reveal principles of human judgment, perception, categorization, decision making, language use, inference, problem solving, and mental representation. Both of these approaches fit into the broader “big-data” initiatives that are transforming the social sciences.