The Real Cost of Using the Prolific Online Platform: A Comprehensive Breakdown

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Running experiments, especially online behavioral or cognitive tasks, can be challenging, but the advent of platforms like Prolific greatly simplifies this process. However, comprehending the cost structure can be a complex task. In this article, we will dissect the cost of using Prolific for running experiments and provide tips to minimize expenses.

Understanding Prolific's License Model

Prolific operates on a pay-as-you-go model rather than an annual or monthly subscription. In other words, you only pay for what you use. This is especially favorable for researchers running one-off studies or those with erratic experiment schedules.

Example Cost of an Experiment with 100 Participants

Let's consider a cognitive experiment run with 100 participants. If you're paying each participant £5/hour (Prolific's recommended minimum rate), a 30-minute long experiment would cost £250 (£5/2 x 100 participants). Furthermore, Prolific charges a 33.3% service fee, which in this case, would be £83.25. Therefore, the total cost of conducting this experiment would be approximately £333.25.

Hidden Costs of Running Experiments on Prolific

While the service fee might seem like the only additional cost, there might be other hidden costs. These include transaction fees when adding funds to your account or refund fees for participants who didn't complete the experiment. These costs are usually not high but should be accounted for in your budget for the sake of precision.

Tips to Reduce Costs on Prolific

One way to reduce costs is to streamline your experiment design to take less time - this directly reduces participant payments. You can also screen participants to include only those who are likely to complete the experiment, thus reducing refund costs. Using third-party tools like or jsPsych can help automate some cognitive tasks, reducing the time you spend managing the experiment.

Running online experiments can be quite difficult and costly, but with the right guidance and planning, it can be made more manageable and affordable. Understanding the costs associated with platforms like Prolific is a crucial first step.

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