Cyberselves: How Immersive Technologies Will Impact Our Future Selves

robodogWe’re happy to announce the re-launch of our project ‘Cyberselves: How Immersive Technologies Will Impact Our Future Selves’. Straight out of Sheffield Robotics, the project aims to explore the effects of technology like robot avatars, virtual reality, AI servants and other tech which alters your perception or ability to act. We’re interested in work, play and how our sense of ourselves and our bodies is going to change as this technology becomes more and more widespread.

We’re funded by the AHRC to run workshops and bring our roadshow of hands on cyber-experiences to places across the UK in the coming year. From the website:

Cyberselves will examine the transforming impact of immersive technologies on our societies and cultures. Our project will bring an immersive, entertaining experience to people in unconventional locations, a Cyberselves Roadshow, that will give participants the chance to transport themselves into the body of a humanoid robot, and to experience the world from that mechanical body. Visitors to the Roadshow will also get a chance to have hands-on experiences with other social robots, coding and virtual/augmented reality demonstrations, while chatting to Sheffield Robotics’ knowledgeable researchers.

The project is a follow-up to our earlier AHRC project, ‘Cyberselves in Immersive Technologies‘, which brought together robotics engineers, philosophers, psychologists, scholars of literature, and neuroscientists.

We’re running a workshop on the effects of teleoperation and telepresence, in Oxford in February (Link).

Call for papers: symposium on AI, robots and public engagement at 2018 AISB Convention (April 2018).

Project updates on twitter, via Dreaming Robots (‘Looking at robots in the news, films, literature and the popular imagination’).

Cross-posted at mindhacks.com

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Funded PhD studentship

Funding is available for a PhD studentship in my department, based around a teaching fellowship. This means you’d get four years of funding but would be expected to help teach during your PhD.

Relevant suitability criteria include:

  • Being ready to start on 5th of February
  • Having completed an MSc with a Merit or Distinction
  • EU citizen
  • Background in psychology

Projects I’d like to supervise are here, including:

Analysing Big Data to understand learning (like this)

Online discussion: augmenting argumentation with chatbots (with Andreas Vlachos in Computer Science)

Improving skill learning (theory informed experiments!)

A PhD with me will involve using robust and open science methods to address theoretical ideas in cognitive science. Plus extensive mentoring on all aspects of the scholarly life, conducted in Sheffield’s best coffee shops.

Full details of the opportunity here. Deadline: 18th December. Get in touch!

The Open Science Framework

Open science essentials in 2 minutes, part 2

The Open Science Framework (osf.io) is a website designed for the complete life-cycle of your research project – designing projects; collaborating; collecting, storing and sharing data; sharing analysis scripts, stimuli, results and publishing results.

You can read more about the rationale for the site here.

Open Science is fast becoming the new standard for science. As I see it, there are two major drivers of this:

1. Distributing your results via a slim journal article dates from the 17th century. Constraints on the timing, speed and volume of scholarly communication no longer apply. In short, now there is no reason not to share your full materials, data, and analysis scripts.

2. The Replicability crisis means that how people interpret research is changing. Obviously sharing your work doesn’t automatically make it reliable, but since it is a costly signal, it is a good sign that you take the reliability of your work seriously.

You could share aspects of your work in many ways, but the OSF has many benefits

  • the OSF is backed by serious money & institutional support, so the online side of your project will be live many years after you publish the link
  • It integrates with various other platform (github, dropbox, the PsyArXiv preprint server)
  • Totally free, run for scientists by scientists as a non-profit

All this, and the OSF also makes easy things like version control and pre-registration.

Good science is open science. And the fringe benefit is that making materials open forces you to properly document everything, which makes you a better collaborator with your number one research partner – your future self.

Notes to support lighting talk as part of Open Science seminar in the Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield on 14/11/17.

Part of a series

  1. Pre-registration
  2. The Open Science Framework
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Pre-registration

Open Science essentials in 2 minutes, part 1

The Problem

As a scholarly community we allowed ourselves to forget the distinction between exploratory vs confirmatory research, presenting exploratory results as confirmatory, presenting post-hoc rationales as predictions. As well as being dishonest, this makes for unreliable science.

Flexibility in how you analyse your data (“researcher degrees of freedom“) can invalidate statistical inferences.

Importantly, you can employ questionable research practices like this (“p-hacking“) without knowing you are doing it. Decide to stop an analysis because the results are significant? Measure 3 dependent variables and use the one that “works”? Exclude participants who don’t respond to your manipulation? All justified in exploratory research, but mean you are exploring a garden of forking paths in the space of possible analysis – when you arrive at a significant result, you won’t be sure you got there because of the data, or your choices.

The solution

There is a solution – pre-registration. Declare in advance the details of your method and your analysis: sample size, exclusion conditions, dependent variables, directional predictions.

You can do this

Pre-registration is easy. There is no single, universally accepted, way to do it.

  • you could write your data collection and analysis plan down and post it on your blog.
  • you can use the Open Science Framework to timestamp and archive a pre-registration, so you can prove you made a prediction ahead of time.
  • you can visit AsPredicted.org which provides a form to complete, which will help you structure your pre-registration (making sure you include all relevant information).
  • Registered Reports“: more and more journals are committing to published pre-registered studies. They review the method and analysis plan before data collection and agree to publish once the results are in (however they turn out).

You should do this

Why do this?

  • credibility – other researchers (and journals) will know you predicted the results before you got them.
  • you can still do exploratory analysis, it just makes it clear which is which.
  • forces you to think about the analysis before collecting the data (a great benefit).
  • more confidence in your results.

Further reading

 

Addendum 14/11/17

As luck would have it, I stumbled across a bunch of useful extra resources in the days after publishing this post

Notes to support lighting talk as part of Open Science seminar in the Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield on 14/11/17.

Part of a series

  1. Pre-registration
  2. The Open Science Framework
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Seminar: Framing Effects in the Field: Evidence from Two Million Bets

Seminar announcement

Framing Effects in the Field: Evidence from Two Million Bets

Friday 8th of December, 1pm, The Diamond LT2

Alasdair Brown, School of Economics, UEA

Abstract: Psychologists and economists have often found that risky choices can be affected by the way that the gamble is presented or framed.  We analyse two million tennis bets over a 6 year period to analyse 1) whether frames are important in a real high-stakes environment, and 2) whether individuals pay a premium in order to avoid certain frames.  In this betting market, the same asset can be traded at two different prices at precisely the same time.  The only difference is the way that the two bets are framed.  The fact that these isomorphic bets arise naturally allows us to examine a scale of activity beyond even the most well-funded experiments.  We find that bettors make frequent mistakes, choosing the worse of the two bets in 29% of cases.  Bettors display a (costly) aversion to the framing of bets as high risk, but there is little evidence of loss aversion.  This suggests that individuals are indeed susceptible to framing manipulations in real-world situations, but not in the way predicted by prospect theory.

Part of the Psychology department seminar series. Tom Stafford is the host.

Please contact me if you’d like to meet with Alasdair.

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2016 review

Research. Theme #1: Decision making: Most of the work I’ve done this year hasn’t yet seen the light of day. Our Michael J Fox Foundation funded project using typing as a measure of the strength of habitual behaviour in Parkinson’s Disease continues, and we’ll finish the data analysis next month. Likewise, we should also soon finish the analysis on our project ‘Neuroimaging as a marker of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)’. Angelo successfully passed his viva (thesis title: “Decision modelling insights in cognition and adaptive decision making”) and takes up a fellowship at Peking University in 2017 (well done Angelo!).

This thread of work, which is concerned with the neural and mechanistic basis of decision making, informs the ‘higher-level’ work I do on decision making, which is preoccupied with bias in decision making and how to address it. This work, done with Jules Holroyd and Robin Scaife, has focussed on the idea of ‘implicit bias‘, and what might be done about it. As well as running experiments and doing conceptual analysis, we’ve been developing an intervention on cognitive and implicit bias, which summarises the current state of research and gives some practical advice on avoiding bias in decision making. I’ve done a number of these sessions with judges, which has been a humbling experience: to merely study decision making and then be confronted with a room of professionals who dedicate their time to actually making fair decisions. As with the other projects, much more on this work will hopefully see the light in 2017.

World events have made studying decision making to understand better decisions seem more and more relevant. Here’s a re-analysis of some older data which I completed following the UK’s referendum on leaving the EU in June: Why don’t we trust the experts? (and, relatedly, my thoughts on being a European scholar). Also on this topic, a piece for The ConversationHow to check if you’re in a news echo chamber – and what to do about it.

Journal publications on decision making:

Holroyd, J., Scaife, R., Stafford, T. (in press). Responsibility for Implicit Bias. Philosophy Compass.
Pirrone, A., Azab, H., Hayden, B.Y., Stafford, T. and Marshall, J.A.R. (in press). Evidence for the speed-value trade-off: human and monkey decision making is magnitude sensitive. Decision
Panagiotidi, M., Overton, P.G., Stafford, T. (in press). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-like traits and distractibility in the visual periphery. Perception.
Pirrone, A., Dickinson, A., Gomez, R., Stafford, T. and Milne, E. (in press). Understanding perceptual judgement in autism spectrum disorder using the drift diffusion model. Neuropsychology.
Bednark J., Reynolds J., Stafford T., Redgrave P. and Franz E. (2016). Action experience and action discovery in medicated individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10, 427. DOI 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00427.
Lu, Y., Stafford, T., & Fox, C. (2016). Maximum saliency bias in binocular fusion. Connection Science, 28(3),258-269.

(catch up on all publications on my scholarly publications page)

 

Research. Theme #2: Skill and learning

My argument is that games provide a unique data set where participants engage in profound skill acquisition AND the complete history of their skill development is easily recorded. To this end, I’ve several projects analysing data from games. This new paper : Stafford, T. & Haasnoot, E. (in press). Testing sleep consolidation in skill learning: a field study using an online game. Topics in Cognitive Science. (data + code) is an example of the new kinds of analysis – as well as the new results – which large data from games allow. The paper is an advance on our first work on this data (Stafford & Dewar, 2014), and is a featured project at the Centre for Data on the Mind. I gave a talk about this work at a workshop ‘Innovations in online learning environments: intrapersonal perspectives‘, for which there is video (view here: Factors influencing optimal skill learning: data from a simple online game).

I have been analysing a large dataset of chess games (11 million + games) and presented initial work on this at the Cognitive Science Conference. You can read the paper or see the code, results and commentary in an integrated Jupyter notebook (these are the future). There’s lots more exciting stuff to come out of this data!

Our overview of how the science of skill acquisition can inform development of sensory protheses came out: Bertram, C., & Stafford, T. (2016). Improving training for sensory augmentation using the science of expertise. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 68, 234-244 (Talk slides, lay summary).

Also: I wrote for The Conversation about an important review of the literature on the benefits of Brain Training, and I had a great summer student looking at the expertise acquired by Candy Crush players.

 

Teaching & thinking about teaching: Not as much to report as last year, since I had teaching leave for the autumn semester, as part of our Leverhulme project on bias and blame. At the beginning of the year I taught a graduate discussion class on dual-process theories in psychology and neuroscience, which was very worthwhile, but didn’t leave much digital trace. Whilst I’ve not been teaching classes, I have been thinking about teaching, publishing this in The Guardian: The way you’re revising may let you down in exams – and here’s why (my third piece in the G on learning), this on NPJ ‘Science of Learning’ Community: Do students know what’s good for them? (I’m proud of this one, mainly for the quality of the outgoing links it includes), and this, for The Conversation, on a under-noted consequence of testing in education: Good tests make children fail – here’s why.

I also used some informal platforms (i.e. blogging etc) to produce some guidance for psychology students: This on what I call the Hierarchy of critique, and this on the logic of student experiment reports, and I tried to provoke some discussion around this : I don’t read students’ drafts. Should I?

I did some talks for graduate students (follow the links for slides): Adventures in research blogging and Expanding your writing portfolio.

 

Peer reviewing: I feel this should be recorded somewhere, since peer reviewing is a part of an academic’s job which requires the pinnacle of their expertise and experience, yet is generally unrecognised and unrewarded. This year I helped the scholarly community out by doing grant reviews for the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and manuscript reviews for Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Memory and Cognition, Connection Science, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Journal of European Psychology Students, International Journal of Communication and the Annual Cognitive Science Society conference. From 1st of January I will only be reviewing papers which make their data freely available, as part of the Peer Reviewers’ Openness Initiative.

 

That’s mostly it, bar a few things I couldn’t fit under these four headlines. Thanks to everyone who helped with the work in 2016 – getting to talk, write and pursue ideas with sincere, intelligent, kind and interesting people is the best part of the job.

(Previously: 2015 review)

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Using Candy Crush to study perceptual learning

This is a guest post by Gabriela Raleva, who did a summer project with me in between her first and second years of the undergraduate degree.

gabrielaVisual learning refers to the enhanced sensitivity to visually relevant stimuli. Affective value of stimuli (e.g. reward, punishment), has been proposed to enhance action selection via instrumental learning (Hickey et al., 2010, Wilbertz et al., 2014).  The majority of studies in perceptual learning adopt an artificial approach of training participants in the lab for many sessions before testing them (although, see (Bavelier et al., 2012)). We used Candy Crush game sets as it represents an ideal platform for natural visual learning and assessed the performance of experienced players that have willingly engaged in a lot of practice hours as well as non-players.

In a between-subject design participants completed a visual search task, searching for a uniquely-shaped Candy Crush target among a number of nonhomogeneous Candy Crush distractors. Targets were divided into 4 conditions: neutral value, reward-value, punishment value and control condition (Figure 1). Reaction time for detection of targets was assessed and compared for each condition.

Figure 1. Target-present sets in all 4 conditions: (a) Neutral condition showing a single green candy (circled) which is a target of neutral consequences in the game, (b) Reward-associated containing a single multi-coloured bomb candy (circled) which is of positive consequences in the game, (c) Punishment-associated condition containing a blue bomb (circled) of negative consequences in the game, and (d) Control condition
Figure 1. Target-present sets in all 4 conditions: (a) Neutral condition showing a single green candy (circled) which is a target of neutral consequences in the game, (b) Reward-associated containing a single multi-coloured bomb candy (circled) which is of positive consequences in the game, (c) Punishment-associated condition containing a blue bomb (circled) of negative consequences in the game, and (d) Control condition

The results suggest that players and non-players revealed largely comparable responses in their detection of control, neutral, negative and positive stimuli (Figure 2). This indicates that the results are not due to self-selection bias. However, players were 35% faster at detecting rewarding targets than neutral targets stimuli. In contrast, non-players were on average 5% slower in detecting rewarding compared to neutral targets. Our analyses indicate that players reveal a consistent pattern of greater rewarding/neutral reaction time ratios than those of non-players consistent with the idea that features of affective-associated stimuli facilitate their perception in visual processing. Furthermore, the only Candy Crush condition in which players showed significantly slower reaction times than non-players is the neutral condition. One possible explanation is that players have developed better visual templates in regards to the game (Bejjanki et al., 2014) and therefore exhibit a visually holistic mode of performance (Green & Bavelier, 2003). Players may have learnt to quickly recognize patterns beneficial for the game such as the rewarding bomb. The green neutral candies compose a beneficial pattern only when they can be combined (at least 3) so it is possible that players learnt to recognize a single neutral candy as a distractor and thus suppress it more effectively. Such holistic expert performance is characterized by “chunking” – a process during which individual constituents are processed as a single perceptual or cognitive entity.

Figure 2. Mean reaction time of players and non-players in all 4 conditions as obtained by the target detection task.
Figure 2. Mean reaction time of players and non-players in all 4 conditions as obtained by the target detection task.

Bavelier, D., Green, C. S., Pouget, A., & Schrater, P. (2012). Brain plasticity through the life span: learning to learn and action video games. Annual Reviews of Neuroscience, 35, 391–416.
Bejjanki, V. R., Zhang, R., Li, R., Pouget, A., Green, C. S., Lu, Z.-L., & Bavelier, D. (2014). Action video game play facilitates the development of better perceptual templates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(47), 16961–6.
Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2003). Action video game modifies visual selective attention. Nature, 423(6939), 534-537
Hickey, C., Chelazzi, L., & Theeuwes, J. (2010). Reward guides vision when it’s your thing: Trait reward-seeking in reward-mediated visual priming. PLoS ONE, 5(11), 1–5.
Wilbertz, G., Van Slooten, J., & Sterzer, P. (2014). Reinforcement of perceptual inference: Reward and punishment alter conscious visual perception during binocular rivalry. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1–9.

 

Postscript from Tom:

One of the great difficulties of studying learning is that true expertise only comes after many many hours of practice. Psychologists often study perceptual learning in the lab with participants engaging in training with specific stimuli that last a few hours. The results of this project demonstrate the potential for using people who have already given themselves hundreds of hours of training with the specific stimuli as a side effect of a game they’ve played. To illustrate how large the effect is I plotted each participant’s Candy Crush level (so 0 for non-players) against the ratio rewarding / punishing stimulus RT : neutral stimulus RT. Even with the small number of participants the effect is clear – Candy Crush players are faster for the value-relevant stimuli relative to neutral stimuli, non-players aren’t.

The black line shows where participants’ reaction times should be if there are equally fast on the valuable Candy Crush stimuli as with neutral Candy Crush stimuli

indiv_diffs

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internship: Public Engagement Coordinator

If you are a recent graduate of the University of Sheffield, then you can apply for this paid internship as Public Engagement Coordinator, working with me in the Department of Psychology. Here’s a bit about what we want to do:

Help the Department of Psychology engage with the public. Our vision is to arrange, promote, run and record a series of
“TED”-style talks for Psychology at Sheffield. These will be our chance to reach hundreds of college age students – both those in our majority recruitment demographic and those from under-represented backgrounds.

And here’s a bit about who we’re looking for:

The ideal candidate will be enthusiastic for what Universities can offer society, and vice versa. You will have an appreciation of the concerns of applicants to the University – especially those from “widening participation” backgrounds – and be capable of keeping track of a complex set of tasks. In this internship you will learn to organise and promote large events, to put scholarship in a wider context and see how issues in people’s everyday lives connect to the work we do in the Department of Psychology. You will practice writing in an engaging and accessible way and get to work with people across the University and the region.

It’s six months, full time, paid. Here are links for the overview and job description, but to apply you need to go to careerconnect.sheffield.ac.uk and enter reference UOS014640. To be eligible you need to have graduated from a University of Sheffield undergraduate degree in 2016. Closing date: 4th of November 2016

Any questions, feel free to get in touch with me

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CogSci @ Sheffield

This mailing list: CogSci at Sheffield supports the ad hoc network of researchers at the University of Sheffield who are interested in Cognitive Science. You can sign yourself up and receive notifications about events happening across the University (but mostly emanating from Psychology, Philosophy, Linguistics and Computer Science).

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Cognitive Science Conference, Philadelphia

fitThis week, 10-13th August, I am a the Annual Cognitive Science Society Conference, in Philadelphia. While there I am presenting work which uses a large data set on chess players and their games.

Previously the phenomenon of ‘stereotype threat’ has been found in many domains where people’s performance suffers when they are made more aware of their identity as a member of a social group which is expected to perform poorly – for example there is a stereotype that men are better at maths, and stereotype threat has been reported for female students taking maths exams when their identity as a women is emphasised, even if only subtly (by asking them to declare their gender on the top of the exam paper, for example). This effect has been reported for Chess, which is heavily male dominated, especially among top players. However, the reports of stereotype threat in chess, like in many other domains, often rely on laboratory experiments with a small number of people (around or less than 100).

My data are more than 11 million games of chess: every tournament recorded with FIDE, the international chess authority, between 2008-2015. Using this data, I asked if it was possible to observe stereotype threat in this real world setting. If the phenomenon is real, however small it is, I should be able to observe it playing out in this data – the sheer number of games I can analyse allows me a very powerful statistical lens.

The answer is, no: there is no stereotype threat in international chess. To see how I determined this, and what I think it means, you can read the paper here, or see the Jupyter notebook which walks you through the key analysis. And if you’re at the Conference, come and visit the poster (as PDF, as PNG). Jeff Sonas, who was compiled the data, has been kind enough to allow me to make available a 10% sample of the data (still over 1 million games), and this, along with all the analysis code for the paper, is available via the Open Science Framework.

There’s lots more to come from this data – as well as analysing performance related effects, the data affords a fantastic opportunity to look at learning curves and try to figure out what affects how players’ performance changes over time.

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