We created Cut to make better use of the web-based technologies and people’s growing online presence in our research. We wanted to deal with three issues.
First, we were looking to go beyond simple multiple choice questions and scales in our studies. Psychologists have developed sophisticated methods to measure specific psychological phenomena. However, these tools are often not up to date; they are platform dependent, they use software patterns that are hard to maintain, their code is written in obsolete programming languages, their interface is reminiscent of Windows 95 and Netscape Navigator, and so forth. If we wanted to use these research instruments, we had to implement our own versions of them from scratch.
A second issues was being able to run these instruments on mobile phones. People today use their phones more than their computers. Using a computer, unless for work or Netflix binging on a bigger screen is almost a bizarre activity these days. Majority of non-work stuff such as social media use, navigation, reading the news, playing games, shopping, online dating, etc happen on smartphones or tablets. And these are amazing tools with awesome capabilities, they are portable and they are everywhere, with people relying on them for every little thing. This means we can access a much larger population, in arguably more ecologically valid settings, at significantly lower costs. We don’t want to lose out on this opportunity but this requires doing better than sending out survey URLs to people.
Finally, when teaching psychology to undergraduates, we noticed that our methods and tools can be discouragingly old for young students. It’s 2018 and almost every freshman has lived their entire life with access to internet and smartphones. They learn better by seeing and doing things in a medium they are familiar with, rather than reading or having someone explain things to them. Furthermore, having to learn about multiple platforms sometimes prevents students from carrying out actual research projects. As a remedy, we further developed Cut to serve as a one-stop service where anyone can design simple studies, recruit participants, collect data, and see their results. This feature enables students with minimal background training to design and conduct their own studies, and gives them a chance to think about research ideas rather than get stuck in their first steps.
We’ll talk about each of these in detail in other posts. For now, we are happy to have Cut openly available for test runs. We are also interested in collaborations. If you have cool tasks or research instruments that you think can be developed on Cut let us know. We’d love to hear for ya’ll.
Salar & Morteza