Eva D. Poort, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
To what extent do our senses shape our knowledge of the meanings of words? Studies on populations with atypical sensory experience (e.g. blind individuals) are key in answering this question, but it can be difficult for such people to come to the lab. Moving research online offers many benefits, but also poses some challenges. Firstly, when participants are blind, stimuli must be presented auditorily, but some researchers discourage online testing with auditory stimuli, due to worries about inaccurate reaction time measurements (Bridges, Pitiot, MacAskill, & Peirce, 2020). To address this, we conducted two experiments in which sighted participants performed a visual and auditory simple reaction time task online, and compared this data to a previous lab experiment (Hintz et al., 2020).
Between-participant variation in reaction times was greater in online experiments, especially with auditory stimuli, but within-participant variation was similar in both online and lab-based experiments. For within-participant designs, we conclude it may be feasible to detect reaction-time effects similar to lab-based research. Secondly, designing online experiments for people with atypical sensory experience brings its own set of challenges. We therefore also discuss tips for making online experiments accessible to blind participants, such as ensuring compatibility with screen reading software. Full author list: Eva D. Poort, Guillermo Montero-Melis, Tanita P. Duiker and Markus Ostarek.