Sunday, October 12, 2008

Using Amazon's mechanical turk for social science research

Have you all heard of amazon's Mechanical Turk?  Basically it is a place where you can post a task to be done over the web, and how much you want to pay for it, and then people can sign up and do the task.  Basically it is for tasks which a large group of people are better than computers.  So one task might be, classify these images as either people, places, or animals, and for each 10 images you classify, I will pay 1 cent.  I have heard of people using it as a transcription service, but splitting up their audio file into hundreds of little bits, paying a cent or so for each, and then sending it on.  From my recollection, this resulted in someone paying 10 or 15 bucks for a transcript of an hour-long interview.  Nice.
So, now, people are starting to realize that this might be a good use for social science research.  Look at this guy's blog post on how he used it for some basic moral psychology research:
In all that I have read, it seems like the data you get is actually pretty good, and amazingly cheap and fast (You can get thousands of responses within a few hours).  I am trying to think of some good applications of this, but probably not in perception.  Any thoughts out there on this?

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