free software for experiments

DMDX closed source, windows only, text-based stimulus file, millisecond-precise

PXLAB open source, java based, for on- and offline use, seems to measure very precisely using System.nanoTime(), as document on the website. Has its own, text-based stimulus description. However, looks like not developed further because the main (and sole?) developer, Hans Irtel, died in 2008.

WEBEXP open source, java based, includes server, new xml-based format for stimuli, uses System.currentTimeMillis() instead of System.nanoTime(), and may thus be less precise than PXLAB

AFFECT closed source, windows only, graphical interface. does not allow direct editing of the script in text format?

FLXLAB C++ for windows and mac, open source

PEBL C++ for windows and linux, open source, has its own text format

It is a big mess that all these projects use totally incompatible stimulus files. Furthermore, I believe it is a dead end to keep developing these new formats that all end up being miniature crippled programming languages. Why not use an easy-to-learn language and make it accessible for the programmers? That is what worked perfectly for social psychologists who program their eperiments in authorware. Authorware was easy enough for your typical psychology phd student, and a lot of material was available to be re-used. Unfortunately, it is not being developed further.

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3 thoughts on “free software for experiments

  1. There are some other opensource projects, but as your post mentioned, overall this is a scattered and confusing effort. I wish all these people had pooled their resources for something more concerted. I’m trying to set up a lab and would like to run freeware/opensource experimental software. Just found some of your websites because me and a student were looking at some of your papers for a research project. I was unsure, from all the info on this blog, whether you are actually developing something we could adopt for social psych experiments in the lab (not over the web) or if not, what this flashDMDX really is. My best option right now seems to be to learn python and if there was an option less time-consuming than learning a new programming language, I’d be grateful.

    1. Adil – what we are developing is meant to be for the web. if you want to set up something for the lab, you are not confined to running programs in the browser or with plugins, but can install programs to measure with much more precision. If you want to measure response latencies with high precision using free software, try DMDX. If you want to program more complex experiments, I recommend python and one of the packages building upon it. If you want to get survey type measures running quickly, you can check out the free qualtrics account, which already does a lot – but it needs to be connected the web.

  2. Hi Thomas, thanks for the comment (and sending it via email, very kind of you). I hadn’t talked to anybody about this so it’s very helpful to hear your opinion. My priority is setting up lab cubicles (I don’t need any web applications, at least no RTs on the web, for now. For web surveys, I use psychsurveys.org) so I will check out DMDX. Good luck with your project, I will follow the updates.

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