It’s a little frightening (for me at least) to think that 10 years ago next month (a decade!) I started my MSc in Psychological Research Methods at Exeter University. The course was (and I believe pretty much still is) a load of taught modules combined with a dissertation that was done primarily over the summer term. My project was on identifying the sex of a cat by looking at only its face; both with and without training (essentially a perceptual learning task). I remember quite clearly taking a taxi out to Cats Protection shelter on a snowy January morning to take photos of different cats. Here are two examples of the session:
One of these is male and the other female. Any guesses? (answer is at the bottom of the post).
Over that summer I gave people 40 pictures of cat faces (20 male and 20 female) and asked them to say whether they thought the cat was male or female. Accuracy was 53.94% that whilst somehow turned out to be statistically better than chance (50%), suggests that people really can’t do this very well.
In order to run the experiment I created a program in Visual Basic to present pictures and collect responses from participants. As a sort of training exercise, I tried converting the VB program into a Java applet for web-use. Somehow, not sure how, I managed it and the experiment is still around today (Web Cat Face Experiment) although I’ve long since forgotten how the code works.
Anyway, occasionally data files get emailed to me from the system from where people have attempted the task. I decided to take a quick look at these data files. A total of 31 responses where there. The average performance? 51.13%.
(The cat on the left is female, the one of the right is male).
I’ve spent a few days at the EPS meeting in Bristol. It was good to catch up with colleagues, previous and potentially new collaborators not to mention a few friends. After co-organising the meeting in Hull, it was nice to let others worry about the finer details!
The new version of the screencast webpage is finally up. Took ages to get it to work the way I wanted (and I still have no idea how it looks in IE).
Without a doubt, the most popular things I’ve ever put up on the web are the video tutorials on stats, SPSS and experiment generators. In a typical month around 100- 150GB of data are downloaded from this site, most of which is the videos (the most extreme I’ve seen was 486GB). I originally put them together for teaching purposes whilst I was doing my PhD at the University of York. Rob Stone and myself though that one of the big problems with teaching statistics is that there are two parts to teaching the stats; first, teaching of theory of statistics and second, the teaching of stats packages such as SPSS. The second of these is a particular problem. Sure, you do a demonstration in class but it’s not realistic to expect students who have been stressed enough with some theory to suddenly remember every click you need to make to get something like SPSS to work properly. The result, was a bunch of screencasts (videos made of a computer screen) walking people through examples of how to perform particular stats tests.
Skip forward 6 years some of those videos are still available over at their original home (http://psycfs.york.ac.uk/screencasts/default.htm). Some of those videos now sit on the screencasts webpage here alongside newer videos and some extremely old ones. Throughout all this time though there has been a reliance on Apple’s Quicktime to play them (i.e. people needed Quicktime or a compatible player installed). With the advent of HTML5, with built in support for video, I thought it was time for a change. Over the past few days, my office machine (during the day), and home desktop (by evening) have been recompressing all of the videos into the required formats; MP4 (H.264/AAC), OGG (Theora/Vorbis) and WebM (VP8/Vorbis). The HTML on the webpage has been updated and will be ready to go live soon. Videos will still be available for download (in MP4 format). This revamped page should go live in the next day or so.
The next two big projects for the screencasts include reshooting some of the earlier ones – particularly the introduction to SPSS one. That doesn’t usually take that long (my screencasts take a “warts-and-all” approach). The other big project will take a lot longer. Adding subtitles to all the videos. Yeah, I know I talk to fast and I’ll try to be speak at a slower rate in future, but to aid those who have difficulty understanding me, hopefully subtitles will help.
The EPS meeting is over (actually is was over on Friday 13th April but never mind). Quite a relief that all seemed to go OK (well most of it, I did manage to be late for my own symposium which most would have to admit is pretty good on the cock-up scale!). I had a strange feeling on last Saturday when it was all over – a feeling that is rather like the same feeling you get at the end of a successful Open University summer school; knackered, but through an enjoyable experience. Thanks to all the speakers, delegates and importantly, my co-organiser Dave George for making this a truly memorable meeting.
So, now to look to the future. Earlier this week I headed down to Plymouth to find a house and meet my new colleagues. I managed to find some time to head down to Plymouth Hoe (that’s the seafront area for those not familiar with the region). Spent a fair amount of time trying to avoid the rain (that was pretty severe at times). A moody Instragram picture sums up the weather:
Still, despite the rain both my laptop and my phone survived to fight another day. A few more photos from the trip (mostly of the seafront) are here:
Only one other bit of news, but good news. I’ve received an email from Hull University Students Union informing me that I’ve been shortlisted for a student-led teaching award (best feedback). I know that some students drop by here so if you’re one of them (and you voted for me!) then many thanks. It’s nice to know that the effort that goes into teaching is appreciated!
A meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society (EPS) will take place in the Department of Psychology at the University of Hull between the 11th and 13th April 2012.
Submission of abstracts is now open here: http://www.eps.ac.uk/index.php/component/chronocontact/?chronoformname=
The submission of abstracts has now closed.
The programme is now available and can be downloaded here:
Please Note: If you wish to book university accommodation for the meeting, or attend the conference dinner, booking forms are located near the end of the programme.
This meeting will include the 1st Frith Prize Lecture by Kathryn Hopkins, a Festschrift for Professor Geoff Hall organised by Dr. David George and a symposium on Applied Issues in Face Recognition organised by myself.
The local organisers are myself and David George. We hope to see you in Hull over Easter!
From the EPS website:
The EPS was founded in 1946. Its role is to facilitate research in experimental psychology, and scientific communication among experimental psychologists and those working in cognate fields. Based in the UK, it also has many members in mainland Europe and elsewhere overseas.
Edited: 11/01/12 19:57 to include details of the Frith Prize.
Edited: 31/01/12 10:42. The submission portal has now closed.
Edited: 19/03/12 14:11. A link to the meeting programme has been added.