Teach­ing Research Methods with Gorilla

Gorilla is a bril­liant tool for cre­at­ing online exper­i­ments and col­lect­ing data from par­tic­i­pants in the lab or online. It is free for users to design and build tasks, preview them, and share them with col­lab­o­ra­tors, which means that there is a mul­ti­tude of ways to use Gorilla inside and outside of the class­room for free! Below are a few ways that we think Gorilla could be used as a useful and low-main­te­nance tool for teach­ing behav­iour­al science.

Show, don’t tell.

With Gorilla, you can demon­strate psy­cho­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­na impact­ful­ly by getting your stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in the exper­i­ments that led to cor­ner­stone psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies. Beyond study­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal effects, learn­ing about psy­chol­o­gy also requires an under­stand­ing of the sci­en­tif­ic method, exper­i­men­ta­tion, and the his­tor­i­cal researchers and exper­i­ments that taught us what we know about the field today. Using Gorilla inside and outside of the class­room will allow your stu­dents to engage in all of these sub­jects simul­ta­ne­ous­ly in a modern, hands-on environment.

Our team has built a wide range of classic exper­i­ments that show­case some of the most iconic psy­cho­log­i­cal tasks — from the Stroop task to the Wis­con­sin Card Sorting Task — that are avail­able for anyone to preview, even without a Gorilla account. We invite pro­fes­sors and lec­tur­ers to use pre-exist­ing classic exam­ples — or build their own tasks with a free account — to create class­room activ­i­ties that will engage stu­dents and teach them about psy­chol­o­gy and exper­i­men­ta­tion at the same time.

For example, why not use Gorilla to present a task in the class­room, and ask stu­dents to show hands to demon­strate the effect? Or next time you are writing up a syl­labus, add a link to a real task that stu­dents can expe­ri­ence themselves!

If there is a task that you want to demon­strate and it’s not on the list, let the Gorilla team know – we’d be delight­ed to add it for you!

Primacy and Recency Class Activity

Learn about Primacy and Recency.

Expe­ri­ence the primacy and recency effect first­hand. Running this experiment demon­stra­tion in the class­room is easy and straight­for­ward! Simply project the experiment onto a lecture screen (click­ing the ‘Launch the experiment’ button). Gorilla will go through the demon­stra­tion step-by-step and provide instruc­tions, so simply sit back and let the demon­stra­tion begin.

Launch the experiment!

What will happen:
Fol­low­ing the onscreen instruc­tions, your stu­dents will be shown a list of stimuli and asked to remem­ber them. Once all the stimuli are pre­sent­ed, the stu­dents are chal­lenged to write down as many as possible.

Once the stu­dents have written down their answers, they are asked to raise their hands for three stimuli (the first, last, and middle one). Count and compare how many people could remem­ber each item. You can write the per­cent­age on the screen. There should be fewer stu­dents who recall seeing the middle stimuli, which would demon­strate the primacy and recency effect.

This prac­ti­cal demon­stra­tions teaches the stu­dents about the primacy and recency effect.

Exper­i­ments show that when par­tic­i­pants are pre­sent­ed with a list of words, they tend to remem­ber the first few and last few words and are more likely to forget those in the middle of the list.

This is known as the serial posi­tion effect. The ten­den­cy to recall earlier words is called the primacy effect; the ten­den­cy to recall the later words is called the recency effect.

This effect is also explained to the stu­dents during the demonstration.

Further Reading:

Orig­i­nal paper: Murdock, B. B. Jr. (1962). The serial posi­tion effect of free recall. Journal of Exper­i­men­tal Psy­chol­o­gy, 64(5), 482–488, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0045106.

A more recent experiment apply­ing the effect to student learn­ing: Castel, A.D. (2008). Metacog­ni­tion and learn­ing about primacy and recency effects in free recall: The uti­liza­tion of intrin­sic and extrin­sic cues when making judg­ments of learn­ing. Memory & Cog­ni­tion, 36, 429–437. https://doi.org/10.3758/MC.36.2.429

Memory Intru­sion Class Activity:

Under­stand the memory error intrusion.

Project Gorilla’s Memory intru­sion task by click­ing the ‘Launch the experiment’ button and go through the demon­star­tion. Engage with the stu­dents by reading out the instructions.

The stu­dents will be told to look at the screen, mem­o­ris­ing a list of words. They will be asked to remem­ber as many of the items as pos­si­ble. Fol­low­ing the stimuli pre­sen­ta­tion, the Gorilla demon­stra­tion will present the stu­dents with some words — some having come from the stimuli set and some related but not includ­ed in the orig­i­nal task. The stu­dents are instruct­ed to raise their hand if they believed the word was includ­ed in the items they had just seen on the screen.

Launch the experiment!

This prac­ti­cal demon­stra­tions teaches the stu­dents about a type of memory error called intrusion.

This error occurs when people falsely remem­ber the pres­ence of a word due to its seman­tic sim­i­lar­i­ty to other words. In this example, the student may have remem­bered the word ‘sleep’ even though it did not appear in the orig­i­nal list, due to its sim­i­lar­i­ty to other words such as ‘tired’.

This is a classic exper­i­men­tal design often used in psy­chol­o­gy, and the task, called the Deese-Roedi­ger-McDer­mott (DRM) Task, has many applications.

Further Reading:
Orig­i­nal paper: Deese, J. (1959). On the pre­dic­tion of occur­rence of par­tic­u­lar verbal intru­sions in imme­di­ate recall. Journal of Exper­i­men­tal Psy­chol­o­gy, 58(1), 17–22, https://doi.org/10.1037/h0046671.

A more recent article out­lin­ing the use of the DRM in psy­chol­o­gy: Gallo, D. A. (2010) False mem­o­ries and fan­tas­tic beliefs: 15 years of the DRM illu­sion. Memory & Cog­ni­tion, 38 (7), 833–848, https://doi.org/10.3758/MC.38.7.833.

Stroop Phe­nom­e­non Class Activity

Learn about the Stroop effect.

Click on the ‘Launch the experiment!’ button. Fol­low­ing the onscreen instruc­tions, your stu­dents will be asked to read out the colour of the font of words that are pre­sent­ed to them.

Once all the stimuli are pre­sent­ed, the stu­dents will be told about the dif­fer­ence between con­gru­ent and incon­gru­ent trials, explain­ing the Stroop Effect.

Once the stu­dents have written down their answers, ask them to raise their hands for three stimuli (the first, last, and middle one). Count and compare how many people could remem­ber each item. There should be a fewer stu­dents who recall seeing the middle stimuli, which would demon­strate the primacy and recency effect.

Launch the experiment!


This prac­ti­cal demon­stra­tion can be used to teach stu­dents about the Stroop Effect.

Naming the font colour of a printed word is an easier and quicker task if word meaning and font colour match (are con­gru­ent). When the colour and word are con­gru­ent, the response should be clear, but when they are incon­gru­ent many people will make mistakes.

Basi­cal­ly, when the colour and word are con­gru­ent, the response should be clear, but when they are incon­gru­ent many people will make mistakes.

Orig­i­nal paper: Stroop, J. R. 1935. Studies of inter­fer­ence in serial verbal reac­tions. Journal of Exper­i­men­tal Psy­chol­o­gy, 18(6), 643–662, https://doi.org/10.1037/h0054651

Paper sum­maris­ing what is known after 50 years of using the Stroop effect. MacLeod, Colin M. 1991. Half a Century of Research on the Stroop Effect: An Inte­gra­tive Review. Psy­cho­log­i­cal Bul­letin 109, 163–203.

Gear up to compete

Despite its impor­tance in acad­e­mia, grant-writing is almost never covered in formal cur­ric­u­la. An in-class grant com­pe­ti­tion can be a fun and com­pet­i­tive way of getting student to think about research ques­tions that they’d like to answer, while giving them valu­able prac­tice writing a grant application.

A sample process might go like this:

  • Sep­a­rate stu­dents into groups. Each group must produce a 1000-word grant appli­ca­tion and create the pro­to­col for their study in Gorilla.
  • The groups present their appli­ca­tion and Gorilla experiment to the class.
  • Stu­dents and lec­tur­ers judge the grant appli­ca­tions and give feedback.
  • The class gets to see the process from the funder’s per­spec­tive when they vote on what study should be funded.
  • Encour­age stu­dents to submit their work to Gorilla Grants — a yearly grant com­pe­ti­tion where real tokens are at stake!

This type of activ­i­ty pushes stu­dents to develop novel ideas and design their own research inde­pen­dent­ly. This could poten­tial­ly even provide stu­dents with a working experiment that they could use to test their ideas using real par­tic­i­pants for a final project or the begin­nings of a Master’s or PhD proposal.

Get Stu­dents Cre­at­ing Their Own Experiments

Digital exper­i­men­ta­tion is becom­ing increas­ing­ly common in indus­try, and psy­chol­o­gy stu­dents are well placed to gain valu­able expe­ri­ence in this field. Using Gorilla, stu­dents can expe­ri­ence first-hand the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing exper­i­ments using their free accounts. Design­ing a hands-on activ­i­ty to learn these skills alone or in groups can help stu­dents to engage the the­o­ret­i­cal and prac­ti­cal aspects of exper­i­men­tal psy­chol­o­gy at the same time. This can be accom­pa­nied by a lit­er­a­ture review and experiment design experiment in order to create a major assign­ment with option­al data col­lec­tion and analy­sis.Example:

A great method to use here is the IAT. It’s easy to come up with lots of hypothe­ses and it intro­duces stu­dents to behav­iour­al research. There are three IAT tem­plates in Gorilla here. Why not make the test fun by asking ques­tions like:

  • Do appli­cants’ tattoos affect employ­ers’ hiring prefrences?
  • What effect do colours have on shop­pers’ behav­iours? (Red for romance, blue for health, green for the environment?)
  • Do blondes really have more fun?

Stu­dents learn valu­able lessons while oper­a­tional­is­ing an IAT. They’ll learn that choos­ing images that prime the desired idea without bias is a skill that takes prac­tice. And more gen­er­al­ly, that before believ­ing the results of a paper, it’s impor­tant to under­stand the methods and the stimuli used.

Read more about Uni­ver­si­ty College Lon­don’s expe­ri­ence giving their stu­dents the oppor­tu­ni­ty to design their own experiments.

If you’d like to create your own tasks and exper­i­ments, sign up to Gorilla.

To learn more about using Gorilla as a teach­ing tool, check out what others have done.