One of the first scientists to use an iPhone application as a research tool thinks ‘apps’ could revolutionize psychological and social research.
Kathy Rastle, a cognitive psychologist at Royal Holloway University of London, is part of an international team that has adapted a classic behavioural psychology experiment so it can be downloaded as an app for the iPhone or iPad.
Apps offer access to a much wider audience than the typical pool of university undergraduates, and preliminary results suggest the data is as reliable as that from similar experiments under controlled laboratory conditions. Rastle adds that downloading an app is a much more attractive prospect for users than asking them to visit a website. “There’s something quite sexy about doing it on an iPhone,” she told Naturejobs.
The app, ‘Science XL: Test your word power’, presents users with a series of real and made-up words and tests how quickly and accurately the user can spot fake words. It was launched at the beginning of February and within the first few days had been downloaded and completed by around 500 people, thanks in part to Royal Holloway students promoting it on Facebook.
Rastle expects the number of people participating to increase further now that the app has started to attract greater attention, and says the method could be applied to a wide range of research. “Using the iPhone or iPad to conduct scientific research is a revolutionary new concept,” she says. “The possibilities are endless.”
The app is free to download from the iTunes app store – search for “Science XL”.
What do you think about using an app as a research tool? Do you have any suggestions for experiments that would work well as an app? Share your views in the comment box.