Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Is it a male or female performer?

This week an interesting new web-based experiment was launched by the International Music Education Research Centre. They address the question: Can listeners determine the gender of the performer on the basis of a recording? Do the experiment by clicking here, and help in finding out ...

Nowadays more and more music cognition researchers are making use of the internet. Next to becoming a serious alternative to some types of lab-based experiments, web-based data collection might even avoid some of the pitfalls of lab-based studies, such as the typical psychology-students-pool biased results, by potentially being able the reach a much larger, more varied and motivated participant pool, as well as having participants doing the experiment in a more natural environment as compared to the lab.

Nevertheless, the real challenge in web-based experiments is how to control for attention. And interestingly, this is not different from experiments performed in the lab. In an online experiment as well, one needs to make sure people are paying attention and actually doing what you instructed them to do. One of the ways we try to resolve that in our online experiments is —next to the standard tricks— to make online experiments as engaging as possible. For instance, by using screencasts, instead of having to read instructions from the screen, and, more importantly, designing a fun and doable experiment that is challenging at the same time. All such that we can assume we attract serious and really interested listeners (see example). With all these aspects improving over time, I am sure that web experiments will become a more and more a reliable source for empirical research in music cognition.

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