Down­load­able apps ver­sus brows­er-based test­ing: Pros and cons of each approach for devel­op­men­tal visu­al cognition

Shan­non Ross-Shee­hy, Uni­ver­si­ty of Tennessee


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Although our visu­al cog­ni­tion research is focused pri­mar­i­ly on infant and adult eye track­ing, our online pres­ence for the last few years has includ­ed behav­ioral atten­tion and work­ing mem­o­ry tasks for preschool­ers. Our ini­tial for­ay into the “at home” test­ing space was dri­ven by a need to con­tin­ue lon­gi­tu­di­nal work we had begun in-lab when the infants were 5‑months-of-age.

Our first approach was to painstak­ing­ly pro­gram our full psy­cho­me­t­ric tasks into a down­load­able game that par­ents would engage in with their 4‑year-olds. Although large­ly suc­cess­ful, par­ents were at times reluc­tant to down­load our apps. In addi­tion, ever-chang­ing secu­ri­ty warn­ings meant par­ents were often unable to run the apps with­out cir­cum­vent­ing secu­ri­ty settings.

Thus, although these “at home” tasks were on par with lab-based tasks in terms of visu­al pre­ci­sion, these ben­e­fits were unre­al­ized if par­ents were too ner­vous to down­load the apps, didn’t have a suit­able com­put­er, or lacked the skills need­ed to cir­cum­vent secu­ri­ty nag screens. Once it became clear that online data col­lec­tion might be a real­i­ty for the fore­see­able future, we decid­ed to repro­gram our tasks into Goril­la. I will dis­cuss briefly the issues I faced dur­ing the tran­si­tion (e.g., screen cal­i­bra­tion, con­trol­ling flow from Qualtrics to Goril­la, con­sent, etc.), as well as what is gained by using brows­er-based techniques.

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