Reflection on the Lab Experiment Team

This semester, I was on the lab experiment team. My job was the preparation of the video stimulus. This turned out to be a more difficult job than I was expecting.

The idea is that this stimulus will consists of a set of political videos and a set of apolitical videos. While the stimulus is presented to the subject, their physiological reaction will be monitored with the BioPac hardware.

The process obviously began with selecting videos. The main difficulties were in finding videos that were practically equivalent in their levels of contention while being varied in their political leanings, and to match them with equivalently contentious apolitical videos. It was easy, for instance, to find contentious videos over Obamacare, but considerably more difficult to find direct confrontation on, say, abortion.

An additional, unexpected hurdle this semester has been file compatibility. Videos are a tricky medium, file-type-wise. The world is just barely getting over the .avi file. Copyright holders are scrambling to prevent users from using old filetypes so they have to convert to newer ones and buy new copies of old content. But not all systems (web-based systems especially) are equipped to handle the newer filetypes that are replacing .avi and its older companions. In the end we had to work around this issue by uploading to youtube (which is up-to-date) and embedding our youtube uploads instead of embedding the file natively.

Anyway, we ended up with, politically, two Obamacare clips, a clip from Occupy Wall Street, and a clip from a pro-choice rally, and apolitically, two Jerry Springer Show clips, an altercation between UC Berkeley students and police, and an Atheism v. Intelligent design debate.

To get the strongest, most measurable results, we had people watch and code for the most contentious portions of the videos. We cut the videos down to just these segments (hoping to conserve participant time and prevent physiological responses from dwindling over the course of the stimulus). These snippets were pilot tested for equivalence on MTURK, and the most evenly matched three videos from each set were chosen.


As it stands, we now have six videos embedded in powerpoint presentations in both political first and apolitical first orders. These presentations are ready for pilot testing.



Here are the videos, if you want to check them out:

The Powerpoint presentations are on the shared drive.