Just to let you know where things stand, I’m in the process of setting up the study. Some of the coding is a bit over my head, because I’ve never done this sort of thing on the web before. Fellow Science Blogger Razib has been helping me a great deal, but if you have knowledge of how these web page thingamajigs work, and you’d like to help, feel free to send me an email. The coding should be really simple, but I’m web design illiterate. Razib suggested that I save the data using MySQL, which should make it easier for others to access and analyze the data however they please. Below the fold, I describe the basic design of the project, and if you have any suggestions, feel free to send me those too.
Also, if you’re interested in getting an idea of what the project is like, check out this paper by McRae et al., in which they used a feature listing task to derive norms for living and nonliving things concepts. As the paper points out, once you have such norms for a set of concepts, the sky’s the limit for what you can do with them.
UPDATE: I want to thank everyone for their input so far. You’ve been very helpful and you’ve really helped me to see the potential of blogging for research. In a sense, it seems it’s entirely possible to use the blog as a medium for collaboration, both with other psychologists and with nonpsychologists who are interested in the issues being studied. I’ve chosen 30 concepts to include in this first pass. You’ll notice that they are pretty much limited to issues that are important in the U.S. The reason for this is primarily that those are the issues with which I’m familiar. However, if we are able to get a lot of respondents, it will be possible to add concepts in the future, and to look at differences in concept representations internationally. Below are the concepts I’ve chosen. If you feel that there’s something that I absolutely should have included, but didn’t, or that is on the list that absolutely should not be, let me know.
separation of church and state
END OF UPDATE
Here’s the design. Every study needs informed concent, so the first page people will see will be a short description of the task (listing properties for several concepts). They’ll be told that their data will be confidiential, and that while the data will be publically available, no identifying information (e.g., ISP addresses) will be. They’ll also be told that they can end the study at any time. By clicking a button to continue, they’ll be providing consent.
The next page will be designed to gather demographic information: age, sex, race, location, where they heard about the study, political affiliation, political orientation, etc. It’d be nice if we could use an actual political orientation scale, but I’m afraid that might tax people’s patience, so for now, I’m going to rely on self-report. If you know of a good, short political orientation scale that might work, let me know. At the end of that page, they’ll read instructions for the property listing task. Then they’ll click a button to continue.
Then comes the meat of the study. By clicking continue on the demographic page, they’ll be sent to one of the concept pages, determined randomly. At the top of the page is the name of the concept, and beneath it will be a text box so that they can enter the properties. When they finish with one concept, they’ll click next. I’m debating with myself whether to have each person do 5 or 10 concepts. In lab experiments, I’ve done 20 per person, and that takes anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, which is probably well beyond the attention span of most people on the internet. I’m hoping to limit the length for each person to 15 minutes. Each time they finish a concept, they click next, and it takes them to another concept.
After completing the final concept, they’ll click a button and it will take them to the debriefing page. This will tell them more about the study, as well as containing contact information for me in case they have any questions or concerns.
And that’s it. Again, let me know if you have any suggestions.