Thursday, 14 January 2016

New Year - New Prime

Flexible RT pad
Happy new year! And with a new year, how about a new E-Prime? While that is of course up to the developers, strategists and other folks over at Psychology Software Tools, we can always hope. In the meantime, I - Michiel blogging here - can do at least a bit in renewing E-PrimeR with the tools currently available. Specifically, I came up with the belated new year's resolution of starting to actively maintain this very blog. It's a bit of work, I suppose, and I'm sure sooner or later I'll forget about it again, but on the bright side: as a resolution, it clearly beats doing something about my bad habits!

As a scientist, I like to predict what should happen before the data are actually collected. In the present blog post, I will describe some of the  forthcoming articles so you have something to look forward to in 2016.

  • A motor control / drawing task tutorial. Every now and then I get emails from people around the world concerning E-Prime. I don't work for PST, so I'm not sure why exactly people ask me, but I always imagine that if people take the time to ask me rather than the more obvious first choice (the very efficient and helpful PST helpdesk) there must be some urgency. Or perhaps it's my personable nature, but either way, I do try to answer these questions. Usually, they go like this: "This is probably a very easy question you can quickly answer, but...". They are rarely easy, or they might be easy if you're a coder in some other field: "I'd like to present a button throughout the experiment that, if clicked, will pause the experiment", but not necessarily in E-Prime. Accordingly,  my "quick reply" more often than not takes about two pages of text. Anyway, one of the recurring questions I get asked is how to make a drawing / motor-control task. Luckily, I have some experience in developing these kinds of tasks, and indeed present one on my own website, but since the code was never meant to be clean, and since it requires a drawing tablet, I figured I could show a new version. More importantly, I just bought a Surface Pro 4, and it will be fun to see how well it runs E-Prime and what we can do with the pen.

The SRBox looked a bit like a 80s Volvo,
the Chronos brings 90s Nintendo to mind.
  • A review / tutorial of Chronos. The picture above shows my previous response box. I didn't even have the classic and much-beloved SRBOX, shame on me! However, the make-shift solution performed quite admirably, to be honest: the latency was reasonable for its purposes (the experiment did not require fast reactions), and the button configuration was supremely flexible, courtesy of the Jan-Rouke Scissor Hack (tm). That is, you don't want subjects to press this or that key? Grab scissors from your office stationary supply, stick one blade below the key and gently push the other side. Okay, perhaps the end result is a bit ghetto, but it does save you from having to worry about the subject accidentally pressing an entirely unrelated and unlogged key. For those who have a little bit more budget, however, PST recently released the Chronos, a veritable weapon of mass destruction when it comes to precision timing. Indeed, the word on the street is that it is so fast, so sub-millisecond, it can report on events that haven't even occurred yet! Forgive me, I'm mildly exaggerating due the anticipation, as it should finally arrive today, any minute now. It has been stuck in Finnish customs for over a month now - perhaps due to the holidays and the postal strike, or is it perhaps because a shady foreign package containing a "Chronos device" sounds so very ominous? Yes, dear Finnish mail, it does spell doom: to timing inaccuracy!
I'm trying to channel the "gadget" reviewer enthousiasm while talking about these devices, as there seems to be very little media attention for the latest in behavioural and cognitive apparatus. Clearly an oversight than must be addressed forthwith.

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