TurkGate on the Experimental Turk

I wrote this essay with Adam Darlow that Gabriele Paolacci featured in the Experimental Turk.

As MTurk was not designed for psychological research, it cannot be expected to provide the experimental control that psychologists typically exercise when recruiting participants for laboratory studies. In particular, MTurk lacks: (I) The ability to exclude participants that have already participated in related studies. (II) The ability to prevent study previews. (III) The ability to verify participants’ completion of a study. TurkGate, or Grouping and Access Tools for External surveys (for use with Amazon Mechanical Turk), gives researchers an easy-to-use web application for providing such control when using MTurk with externally hosted studies (e.g., Qualtrics surveys).

Anchoring Base Rates

I helped Joachim Krueger teach psychology at Brown after which he wrote this unifying post on pitting heuristics against each other:

One of the most famous findings in the psychology of prediction is the phenomenon of base rate neglect. People mainly rely on judgments of representativeness. They assign an instance to the category whose prototype it resembles the most without regard to the relative size of the category. When the category is very small, the heuristic of representativeness leads to systematic overcategorization. Physicians overdiagnose rare diseases when the symptoms reflect the disease’s typical pattern, ordinary people overestimate the size of stereotyped minority groups, and scientific significance testers are too accepting of improbable alternatives to the null hypothesis.

Friends with Personalities

I wrote an essay on the personalities of friends with Joachim Krueger and Leonard Chen for Psychology Today:

In a somber mood, one might think that characters on U.S. American television are uni-dimensional. Sitcom characters in particular may be funny by virtue of being caricatures without depth. On Scrubs, J.D. is whiny, Elliot is insecure, Carla is domineering, Dr. Cox is psychopathically emotionless, and the janitor is janitorial. Perhaps we are stereotyping; by stopping after listing the first attribute that comes to mind, we are caricaturing the caricatures. One claim the Big-5 taxonomy of personality traits can lay to having depth is that it has, well, not 3 or 4, but 5 personality traits. With these traits being fairly independent of one another, describing each person on one more trait dimension adds complexity to the profile.

Reason and Emotion: A note on Plato, Darwin, and Damasio

It is common to think that emotions interfere with rational thinking. Plato described emotion and reason as two horses pulling us in opposite directions. Modern dual-systems models of judgment and decision-making are Platonic in the sense that they endorse the antagonism between reason and emotion. The activities of one system are automatic and often emotional, whereas the activities of the other are controlled and never emotional. The automatic system gets things done quickly, but it is prone to error. The controlled system’s mission is to keep a watchful eye and to make corrections when necessary. Like a watchful parent, this system reins in our impulses and overrides our snap judgments.