What do you work on?
I’m currently a student, and I conducted a study to test the effect of a repeated flexion movement (rFM) computer task on approach motivation.
What did you do you investigate?
Research indicates that there are at least two fundamental motivational systems critical in regulating emotions and behavior: the approach-appetitive motivation system and the avoidant-withdrawal motivation system. The approach system regulates behavior to attain rewards, increase desired outcomes, and pursue goals (Depue & Iacono, 1989; Fowles, 1980; Gray, 1994). High levels of approach system activity are associated with greater levels of psychological well-being. Accordingly, researchers have searched for strategies to increase approach motivation.
Unfortunately, most of these strategies require a trained professional (e.g., therapist) or specialized equipment (e.g., transcranial magnetic stimulation ). However, a study in our lab (Haeffel, 2011) showed that a 20 minute computer task using repeated flexion movements (rFM) had potential to increase approach motivation. This presents an opportunity for an online, accessible intervention to increase approach motivation in individuals without the assistance of a specialist.
In the current study, we used Gorilla to create a version of the rFM computer task that could be used by anyone with a laptop.
“The purpose of the study was to replicate and extend our prior work on this topic. By pairing our Gorilla-built experiment with Prolific, we were able to recruit participants from 5 countries!”
What did you do using Goirlla?
The main part of the study was the rFM task, a modified version of Maxwell & Davidson’s (2007) continuous-performance emotion asymmetry spatial cuing task. Maxwell and Davidson created this task to test whether or not flexion (cf. approach) and extension (cf. avoidance) movements were represented in the left and right hemispheres, respectively. In this task, visuospatial cues (arrows directed toward the self or away from the self) are used to elicit flexion and extension motor movements that engage the approach and avoidance systems, respectively.
For the Gorilla version of this task, we told participants to rest their right index finger on the “\ | “ key between the delete and return. If the arrow pointed down and toward the participant, they would do a flexion movement and press the “enter/return” key and if the arrow pointed up and away, they would press the “delete/backspace key” in an extension movement.
We also administered the BIS/BAS Scale, the PANAS questionnaire and made our participants try to figure out three unsolvable five-letter anagrams (selected from Tresselt & Mayzner, 1966).
Did you include any special features in your study to ensure good quality data? If so, what did you do?
We used exclusion based on keyboard setups to ensure participants were completing as similar of an experiment as possible for the arrow pushing keyboard task.
Has this study been published?
No, but we have pre-registered the study on Open Science Framework.
We plan to make our materials available on Gorilla Open Materials after we submit for publication.
How do you think online research is going to change your field?
I believe online research will expand what we know about cognitive psychology by increasing the diversity of participant pools to include a wider array of ages, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses than many psychology studies with university samples can provide.
“Online research is so valuable, as it gives us researchers the ability to reach and recuit a more diverse group of participants.”
Why did you choose Gorilla?
We chose Gorilla for its low cost for student researchers and user-friendly experiment builder interface for researchers with non-coding backgrounds.
What real-world problem do you see that your research could impact?
Research into online interventions for common mental health problems like depression and anxiety is an important pursuit to enable populations who may have mobile devices but no access to mental health services to get the support they need.
How did Gorilla make your life or research better, easier or faster?
Gorilla made it possible to transform our concept of an in-lab psychology experiment with a button box into an online keyboard task accessible to thousands of online research participants. This was made easy with Gorilla’s user-friendly experiment builder.
For you, what is the stand-out feature in Gorilla?
The cut-and-paste coding capacity in Gorilla is crucial for researchers with non-coding backgrounds to introduce their research to more advanced platforms and greater participant pools. Second, and more importantly, the support team at Gorilla is the best I have worked with in my research career. They respond promptly and thoughtfully to help fix any bugs along the way in experiment building.
Who or what originally inspired you to work in your field of research?
I have had lots of personal family and friends struggle with depression and other mental health problems like anxiety, so I was motivated to get involved in the research and development side of mental health treatment.
What is the most exciting piece of work or research you’ve ever done?
It would have to be my first truly independent research in mental health was a study on the Hopelessness Theory of Depression and its generalizability in non-WEIRD populations, which I did through a partnership at an NGO in Kathmandu, Nepal.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?
I love to do anything that involves being outside and being active, especially rock climbing and hiking.
On a personal level, what are you most proud of?
I am proud that I am using research to evaluate and improve mental health and community health resources for people in need.