From Start to Finish: What Goes Into a Study -- Day 224: Counterbalance!

The Prisoner's Dilemma is one of a handful of games that test the limits of cooperation.

The Prisoner's Dilemma is one of a handful of games that test the limits of cooperation.

This series of posts is documenting the journey of my first first-author project, from the infancy of the research through publishing. I am highlighting the major checkpoints of the project — when things move forward or backward — rather than a daily update because that would seriously be boring. Just about all the content discussed will be directly related to the project I’m working on.

If you haven’t read the previous posts, check these out!
Day 1
Day 2 – 7
Day 27
Day 82
Day 145
Day 193
Day 197
Day 203
Day 216

Check out the next day... Day 233

Day 224: Counterbalancing and pushing towards the end of prelim

As with any properly designed study, limiting confounds and threats to validity is extremely important to the integrity of the claims made by the researcher pertaining the data. In other words, demonstrating your ability to control your experiment is something that gets harped on a lot -- dare I say, the most?

Counterbalancing an experiment -- reversing the order of the presentation of stimulus -- is one way to control for something called priming effects. Priming happens when you experience something that ends up influencing your subsequent decision. An (unfounded and completely made up) priming experiment would be showing you pictures of nature and then giving you a survey on energy consumption. You may be primed to answer in favor of energy consumption merely because of your previous exposure to natural images. This happens subconsciously and can have a very large influence on behavior -- and for me, brain activity.

Our experiment involves using a classic social dilemma paradigm called The Prisoner's Dilemma (read more about The Prisoner's Dilemma and other social dilemma games I've read about here). To explain The Prisoner's Dilemma briefly, you have a choice a a prisoner: to cooperate with your partner in crime or to not cooperate (defect) against your partner in crime. We have modified The Prisoner's Dilemma to test the differences in risk and uncertainty (I know, neuroecon community... vague; we're still collecting data). In our procedure, a participant will encounter two different versions of a social dilemma. However, because of the risk difference between each version, a participant may be primed to either cooperate or defect more. So, to balance the possible priming effects, we counterbalance!

At this point, my researchers are about 5 participant pairs away from finishing initial data collection. We estimate a week from now before we have our preliminary data set. We'll preprocess (aka refine) our data through EEGLab and then see if we have a story to tell.

At this rate, we are in line for an April data blitz and a SfN abstract submission. Just saying... the two RAs coming with me to present this project are bad asses. You'll be impressed, DC. You will.

Check out Day 233 here!

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