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I am planning on running an online psychological experiment where participants must learn about various simulated environments and then make inferences about them. Because completing the experiment would require a nontrivial amount of attention and time, I have been toying with the idea of giving personal feedback at the end of the experiment (i.e., using gamification).

I am considering giving participants feedback regarding how their responses compare to our computational model's predictions and/or to the average. The hope is that receiving a "score", even when it's made clear that such a score is not evaluative or absolute, will get people to pay more attention and will make them more likely to complete the task. The feedback would only be offered following the experiment itself, and its precise nature would not be revealed until that time. Moreover, I wouldn't specify how our predicted scores are derived. Calculating the exact values by hand would be extremely time consuming, so even if the derivation is explained I don't see how anyone could realistically bias their responses with that knowledge.


  • Does giving personal feedback raise any ethical problems?
  • How might it affect response patterns?
  • Will giving personal feedback elicit higher completion rates and more attentive responding, without any significant complications?
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This question has an open bounty worth +100 reputation from Christian Hummeluhr ending in 6 days.

The question is widely applicable to a large audience. A detailed canonical answer is required to address all the concerns.

"Making Surveys More Fun" blog post might be relevant. –  Artem Kaznatcheev Jul 10 '12 at 20:28
Interesting question, but I don't think it's possible to answer with the information given. If you give us a detailed explanation of the experiment and what you hope to find, perhaps we can help. My intuitions: 1) is there any reason to suspect this is unethical? 2) people might try to change their answers to match feedback, even if they don't know how the feedback was derived. this in confusing though, because you say feedback is only given at the end of the experiment. so i'm not sure how that would help your cause. –  Jeff Nov 20 '12 at 6:23
3) yes, feedback can engage attention. whether that mitigates attrition in your experiment is unclear. –  Jeff Nov 20 '12 at 6:23
Paying it forward because I think this could be a very valuable question in the same vein as cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/9584/… –  Christian Hummeluhr 14 hours ago
^sir, answer me these questions, and i'll nail your bounty like a fi-dolla whore: 1) how many hours are we talking per subject? 2) what is the sample -- undergrad students? 3) is your research related in any way to meta-cognitive ability? –  faustus 8 hours ago

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