A ‘spoon full of sugar’ helps the medicine go down: how a participant friendly version of a psychophysics task significantly improves task engagement, performance and data quality in a typical adult sample

Marie L. Smith, M. Letizia Cesana, Emily K. Farran, Annette Karmiloff-Smith, Louise Ewing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Few would argue that the unique insights brought by studying the typical and atypical development of psychological processes are essential to building a comprehensive understanding of the brain. Often, however, the associated challenges of working with non-standard adult populations results in the more complex psychophysical paradigms being rejected as too complex. Recently we created a child (and clinical group) friendly implementation of one such technique – the reverse correlation Bubbles approach and noted an associated performance boost in adult participants. Here, we compare the administration of three different versions of this participant-friendly task in the same adult participants to empirically confirm that introducing elements in the experiment with the sole purpose of improving the participant experience, not only boost the participant’s engagement and motivation for the task but results in significantly improved objective task performance and stronger statistical results.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1011–1019
Number of pages9
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number3
Early online date23 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Reverse correlation
  • Bubbles
  • task engagement
  • child friendly
  • experimental outcomes

Cite this