Seeking Alternatives to MTurk for Online Behavioral and Cognitive Experiments

Illustration of Experiment Design

In the world of scientific research, particularly in the arena of behavioral and cognitive experiments, MTurk has been a renowned platform for sourcing participants. However, running online experiments on this platform has its unique set of challenges. This guide is designed to help you explore alternatives, understand how to make the switch, and manage the related expenses.

The Limitations of MTurk

While MTurk can be an efficient starting point for psychological research, it's not without its drawbacks. For instance, the participant pool is heavily skewed towards individuals in the United States, contributing to a lack of global diversity in the study samples. Further on, MTurk's terms of service limit the types of cognitive tasks you can administer, potentially affecting the scope and depth of your research. Lastly, the level of responses tends to vary, which can compromise the reliability of your experiments.

Online Platforms as Alternatives

Given MTurk's limitations, several alternative platforms offer meaningful solutions for running behavioral and cognitive experiments online. Some of these include , Prolific, and Experiment Factory. Platforms like these provide richer participant pools with a more global representation, a variety of ready-to-use cognitive tasks, and robust data collection and analysis capabilities. Moreover, you can utilize JavaScript library like jsPsych to create customized cognitive tasks to suit your experiments.

Smooth Migration from MTurk

The thought of migrating from a familiar platform to a new one can be intimidating. However, most of these other platforms are designed to be user-friendly. More often than not, they provide helpful resources (like manuals and live support) to assist you with the migration. For example, Cognition offers a step-by-step guide on setting up and running your first online experiment.

Evaluating the Cost

Lastly, cost is a factor you'd want to consider. While some platforms have fees associated with participant recruitment, others like Cognition offer free use of their resources with a pay-as-you-go model for premium features. Moreover, the rich data quality and diversity obtained from these alternatives can justify any potential increase in cost. Ultimately, the choice depends on your specific research needs and budgetary limitations.

Embracing such alternatives can pave the way for more robust and globally representative research, freeing you from some of the limitations intrinsic to MTurk. Taking the leap may require navigating a learning curve and potential budget adjustments, but the benefits to your research could be well worth it.

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