Cognitive Daily

Top secret casual Friday study

This week’s Casual Friday study requires participants to be unaware of its purpose. It’s nothing insiduous, just a quick survey that should, as usual, take no more than a minute of your time. We do think it’s a clever little experiment, so we hope you’ll participate, even knowing nothing of its purpose.

Click here to participate.

As usual, you’ll have until 11:59 p.m. U.S. Eastern time on Wednesday, March 15 or until we have 250 responses to participate. Look for the results next Casual Friday.

For now, I’m going to close comments on this post, but feel free to e-mail me with any questions.

Update 3/14/2006, 9:35 a.m. Okay, the survey is now closed. We had some surveymonkey credits to spare, so we actually upped cap on the number of responses to a record 400 — thanks to all who participated. I’ll open up the comments now so you can speculate about what this is all about.


  1. #1 Western Infidels
    March 14, 2006

    I think I’m actually most curious about the crazy numbering of the questions, although the whole thing is quite a head-scratcher.

  2. #2 Dave Munger
    March 14, 2006

    The crazy numbering was an artifact of the way the study was generated: We used birthdays as a way to divide participants into groups; each group was then skipped forward to answer a different set of questions. Survey Monkey wants us to consecutively number each question, even if some of them are skipped.

    Every group answered the final question about the colors. (Though only about half the participants actually gave a response!)

    Any other questions?

  3. #3 Phronk
    March 14, 2006

    I’m surprised even half gave a response…looked grey to me!

    If you used birthday to assign groups, that’s not exactly random assignment is it? Or was birthday something you were actually looking at?

    My guess is it had something to do with “feeling blue” (i.e. I was asked to think of a sad situation) and actually seeing cool, blue, colours in an ambiguous landscape. Am I close?

  4. #4 Dave Munger
    March 14, 2006

    Phronk —

    Yes, you’re close. We tried to induce three different emotions: Happiness, Sadness, and Anger, (plus a control) and then showed an ambiguous picture to see whether the different induced emotions caused people to see different colors. On Thursday, we’ll post a writeup of the scientific study that inspired this Casual Friday. Then, hopefully, on Friday, we’ll report our own dramatic results.

    Or quite possibly, the lack thereof!

    I don’t think the month of birth should bias the results, but if you can think of a better way of dividing hundreds of respondents into four roughly equal groups without using a random-number generator (not available on surveymonkey), I’d like to hear it.

  5. #5 Carolyn Goodwin
    March 14, 2006

    Birthday seems pretty random to me…unless you’re one of those astrology gurus who believes the stars’ alignment caused you to see a particular color. I thought about something that made me angry and saw blue…but i think I chose that because that was the closest option to grey. My guess is that most people saw blue – am i right?

  6. #6 Dave Munger
    March 14, 2006


    I haven’t started the analysis yet (I’m still working on today’s post!), but just looking quickly at the data I wouldn’t say that any one color is dominating. Lots of people picked lots of different colors. We’ll see on Friday what a closer analysis reveals.

  7. #7 Chris Honey
    March 16, 2006

    My own experience was that I would read a colour-name, and then look for that colour in the picture above, and then read another colour-name and test for that colour and so on — of course I saw glimpses of each of the colours in turn! …I tend to be quite prone to suggestion.

    But when the cognitive-perceptual effect that we’re testing for is slight (as I imagine this one is?) then the experiment has to be very carefully designed; the cues implicit in the structure/formatting of the survey can have as large an influence as the cogntive effect that we’re trying to examine.

    I guess it’s just difficult to do through Survey Monkey. Perhaps the experiment would have been stronger if people were given a smaller selection of colours to choose from?

  8. #8 Phronk
    March 17, 2006

    Yay! Very interesting study.

    I guess a birthday is the best you can do without a random number generator or table.

    But you never know…there is evidence for time of birth having an effect on certain things. Without getting into astrology, you can think of worldly things…e.g. a baby born in October will experience cold weather and snowy white landscapes as their first taste of the world. A July baby will experience warmth and green. Could this have an effect on colours seen in an ambiguous landscape? Unlikely…but it can’t be ruled out.

    Maybe a smarter person than I can come up with a way for true randomization. Not that it’s critical for informal research like this, but it’d be a nice improvement.

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