EXAMPLE LAB: Perceptual Adaptation

Laboratory courses often involve data collection, analysis, and interpretation. The Reasoned Writing / A Framework for Scientific Papers modules can help place laboratory activities in the context of the scientific method.

The pdf files at the bottom of the page represent an example of a laboratory that uses RW/AFSP to perform a simple experiment on perceptual adaptation.

In the experiment, students begin by reading, analyzing, and interpreting a paper that involves perceptual adaptation and practice (Bock et al., 2005). I selected the paper primarily for brevity, but also because it identifies some clear alternative hypotheses for perceptual adaptation. Based on their analysis of the paper, I ask the students to formulate General and Measurable Hypotheses. The students then design an experiment to test their hypotheses.

Reasonable experiments can be performed with a limited number of low-cost components, including

1) Prism Goggles that alter vision (http://www.psychkits.com/)

2) Magnetic Dart boards (e.g. Doinkit Darts).

Data analysis involves simple calculations and statistical tests (e.g. t-tests) that can be performed using free spreadsheet software such as Google Sheets.

Although collecting data with the goggles and darts is fun and engaging, the experiment involves careful planning and reasoning. Importantly, students can go through much of the scientific process (from concept to conclusion) in a reasonable amount of time.