What do you work on?
My PhD and ongoing collaborative work was/is on impulsive behaviour in people with Parkinson’s, but most of my current work (previously University of York, now University of Southampton) is in retrieval practice with educational applications. I also spend quite a bit of time doing things related to open research and reproducibility.
What did you do using Gorilla and what did you find?
There’s robust evidence that retrieval practice is an effective learning strategy, even above restudying, to promote long-term retention of information. But do you have to practice retrieving all aspects of the information or can you practice on a subset? We used multi-element event triplets (animal, object, location) to test this. Participants were encouraged to imagine the three elements interacting as vividly as possible to encourage tightly integrated events at the point of encoding e.g. spider — carrot — circus. They then did retrieval practice on, or were re-exposed to, a subset of pairs from those triplets (spider — carrot) which left one element (circus) and two pairs (circus — spider / circus — carrot) untested/not re-exposed. 2 days later they did a final test on all pairs from all triplets.
Firstly, and surprisingly, we found no evidence of retrieval practice being better for long-term retention compared to re-exposure. We think this might be because the integrated nature of the triplets elicited automatic retrieval in the re-exposure condition. Secondly, we found that retrieval practice/re-exposure to one pair from the triplet improved long-term retention for the remaining element and two pairs from the same triplet. This is cool because it means transfer is occurring! This didn’t differ between retrieval practice and re-exposure though, but that’s not surprising given the lack of retrieval practice effect compared to re-exposure. Transfer is important for retrieval practice when used in the classroom, and it may be that the initial presentation of information is important (i.e. integrated material). We don’t know in this study if transfer from tested to untested information was due to retrieval practice or re-exposure at this stage though.
Has this study been published?
This paper arose from my work at the University of York with Aidan Horner and Lisa Henderson. The pre-print is on PsyArXiv and the Stage 2 Registered Report has just been accepted at Royal Society Open Science!
How did Gorilla make your life or research better, easier or faster?
Data collection is so much quicker, once we’d received in principle acceptance of our Stage 1 Registered Report I started and finished data collection and analysis within 2–3 weeks. In the past and using in-person methods it would’ve taken me months to get the same sample size. I’ve run two pilot studies and two full experiments on Gorilla since then and I’ve saved SO much time! Whenever I’ve gotten stuck, there’s always been someone available to help whether through the official support channels or the online community.
For you, what is the stand-out feature in Gorilla?
It’s so intuitive from the very beginning! When you first open the website it’s very easy to build a basic experiment with little to no knowledge, which gives you a good foundation to try out the more advanced features quite quickly.
How do you think online research is going to change your field?
I think it’ll change a lot of fields! By cutting down the hundreds of hours that can be spent building experiments from scratch and then running them in-person in the lab, that’s time that can be invested in creating theory driven hypotheses and analysis plans and increasing the quality of the research we do.
What is the most exciting piece of work or research you’ve ever done?
This one! I’m proud of the effort that went into it, and the results were really surprising. I think we might’ve struggled to get it published if we hadn’t gone with the Registered Report publication route because of a surprising null result.
Did you include any special features in your study to ensure good quality data?
I included an attention check as a trial that appeared once per block. Participants were instructed to press the spacebar and had a 5 second time limit to do so. Considering the speed of the experimental trials, this should have been plenty of time to press the button if they were already paying attention. I then excluded those who failed the attention checks, which was about 10% of recruited participants.
What’s your favourite STEM joke?
What’s the difference between a magician and a psychologist?
A magician makes rabbits appear in hats, but a psychologist makes habits appear in rats! 🐇🐀
Are there any online courses, podcasts, discussion groups or resources that you’d recommend to others?
I’m biased as a former committee member, but ReproducibiliTea is a global organisation primarily targeted at empowering ECRs to do better and more reproducible research. ReproducibiliTea journal clubs are held all over the world where we discuss papers focused on open research, and it’s a great community with a strong online presence connecting all the local institutional journal clubs together. There’s a podcast too!
What is the biggest advantage of online research methods?
It saves so much time without compromising on quality. The only reason I was able to do this project as a Registered Report in the months between the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the date at which my postdoc contract was scheduled to end is because I got the experiment set up so quickly on Gorilla and knew I’d get the data collected fast once the Stage 1 manuscript was accepted. This project was the fastest and the most high-quality piece of work I think I’ve ever done and much of that is due to the ease of using Gorilla and Prolific.
When you’re not working what do you enjoy doing?
I like to play video games, particularly if they’re set in immersive fantasy or sci-fi worlds. The Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls, and Assassin’s Creed series are my favourites. I’ve always got one or two games on the go, right now it’s Mass Effect Andromeda and Life is Strange 2.