Monday, February 28, 2011

Research bytes: Innovative behavioral research methods research articles

Block, C. K., & Baldwin, C. L. (2010). Cloze probability and completion norms for 498 sentences: Behavioral and neural validation using event-related potentials. Behavior Research Methods, 42(3), 665-670.

Three decades after their publication, Bloom and Fischler' s (1980) sentence completion norms continue to demonstrate widespread utility. The aim of the present study was to extend this contribution by expanding the existing database of high-constraint, high cloze probability sentences. Using the criteria established by Bloom and Fischler, we constructed 398 new sentences and presented these along with 100 sentences from their original list to be normed using a sample of 400 participants. Of the 498 sentences presented, 400 met criteria for high cloze probability—that is, .67 or higher probability of being completed by a specific single word. Of these, 321 sentences were from the new set and an additional 79 were from Bloom and Fischler' s set. A high degree of correspondence was observed between responses obtained by Bloom and Fischler for their high-constraint set. A second experiment utilized an N400 event-related potential paradigm to provide further validation of the contextual constraint for the newly generated set. As expected, N400 amplitude was greater for sentences that violated contextual expectancy by ending in a word other than the newly established completion norm. Sentence completion norms are frequently used in cognitive research, and this larger database of high cloze probability sentences is expected to be of benefit to the research community for many years to come. The full set of stimuli and sentence completion norms from this study may be downloaded from content/supplemental.

Buchanan, T., Heffernan, T. M., Parrott, A. C., Ling, J., Rodgers, J., & Scholey, A. B. (2010). A short self-report measure of problems with executive function suitable for administration via the Internet. Behavior Research Methods, 42(3), 709-714

This article describes a short self-report measure of problems with executive function designed for use in Internet-mediated research. In Study 1, participants completed the online measure (Webexec) using a browser but under laboratory conditions. They also completed a paper self-report measure of executive problems (the Dysexecutive Questionnaire; DEX) and three objective tasks involving executive function: reverse digit span, semantic fluency (unconstrained), and semantic fluency (constrained). Webexec scores correlated positively with the DEX and negatively with the three executive tasks. Further evidence of construct validity came from Study 2, in which Webexec scores correlated positively with both use of cannabis and prospective memory problems reported in an online drug questionnaire. Webexec thus appears suitable for online research with normal populations.

ESCOLANO-PÉREZ , E., & SastreRiba, S. (2010). Early infant cognitive assessment: Validity of an instrument. Behavior Research Methods, 42(3), 759-767.

The present study represents a contribution to the assessment of infant cognitive development by presenting a valid instrument for observing the development of logical reasoning and executive function during the second year of life—key processes in the construction of human knowledge. The instrument constructed, called ELEDA (Early Logical and Executive Development Assessment), was a combined or mixed observation instrument composed of field formats and category systems. Its validity was calculated using generalizability theory, which enables different sources of error affecting a behavioral measurement to be analyzed jointly. The need for valid early cognitive assessment instruments such as the one in the present article is evident, since the sooner assess-ment is performed, the sooner action can be taken, thus optimizing the results.

Freeman, J. B., & Ambady, N. (2010). MouseTracker: Software for studying real-time mental processing using a computer mouse-tracking method. Behavior Research Methods, 42(1), 226-241.

In the present article, we present a software package, MouseTracker, that allows researchers to use a computer mouse-tracking method for assessing real-time processing in psychological tasks. By recording the streaming x-, y-coordinates of the computer mouse while participants move the mouse into one of multiple response al-ternatives, motor dynamics of the hand can reveal the time course of mental processes. MouseTracker provides researchers with fine-grained information about the real-time evolution of participant responses by sampling 60–75 times/sec the online competition between multiple response alternatives. MouseTracker allows research-ers to develop and run experiments and subsequently analyze mouse trajectories in a user-interactive, graphics-based environment. Experiments may incorporate images, letter strings, and sounds. Mouse trajectories can be processed, averaged, visualized, and explored, and measures of spatial attraction/curvature, complexity, velocity, and acceleration can be computed. We describe the software and the method, and we provide details on mouse trajectory analysis. We validate the software by demonstrating the accuracy and reliability of its trajectory and reaction time data. The latest version of MouseTracker is freely available at

Li, X. R., Liang, Z., Kleiner, M., & Lu, Z. L. (2010). RTbox: A device for highly accurate response time measurements. Behavior Research Methods, 42(1), 212-225.

Although computer keyboards and mice are frequently used in measuring response times (RTs), the accuracy of these measurements is quite low. Specialized RT collection devices must be used to obtain more accurate measurements. However, all the existing devices have some shortcomings. We have developed and implemented a new, commercially available device, the RTbox, for highly accurate RT measurements. The RTbox has its own microprocessor and high-resolution clock. It can record the identities and timing of button events with high ac-curacy, unaffected by potential timing uncertainty or biases during data transmission and processing in the host computer. It stores button events until the host computer chooses to retrieve them. The asynchronous storage greatly simplifies the design of user programs. The RTbox can also receive and record external signals as trig-gers and can measure RTs with respect to external events. The internal clock of the RTbox can be synchronized with the computer clock, so the device can be used without external triggers. A simple USB connection is suf-ficient to integrate the RTbox with any standard computer and operating system.

LorenzoSeva, U., Ferrando, P. J., & Chico, E. (2010). Two SPSS programs for interpreting multiple regression results. Behavior Research Methods, 42(1), 29-35.

When multiple regression is used in explanation-oriented designs, it is very important to determine both the usefulness of the predictor variables and their relative importance. Standardized regression coefficients are rou-tinely provided by commercial programs. However, they generally function rather poorly as indicators of rela-tive importance, especially in the presence of substantially correlated predictors. We provide two user-friendly SPSS programs that implement currently recommended techniques and recent developments for assessing the relevance of the predictors. The programs also allow the user to take into account the effects of measurement error. The first program, MIMR-Corr.sps, uses a correlation matrix as input, whereas the second program, MIMR-Raw.sps, uses the raw data and computes bootstrap confidence intervals of different statistics. The SPSS syntax, a short manual, and data files related to this article are available as supplemental materials from http://

Magis, D., Beland, S., Tuerlinckx, F., & DeBoeck, P. (2010). A general framework and an R package for the detection of dichotomous differential item functioning. Behavior Research Methods, 42(3), 847-862.

Differential item functioning (DIF) is an important issue of interest in psychometrics and educational mea-surement. Several methods have been proposed in recent decades for identifying items that function differently between two or more groups of examinees. Starting from a framework for classifying DIF detection methods and from a comparative overview of the most traditional methods, an R package for nine methods, called difR, is presented. The commands and options are briefly described, and the package is illustrated through the analysis of a data set on verbal aggression.

McCarthy, P. M., & Jarvis, S. (2010). MTLD, vocd-D, and HD-D: A validation study of sophisticated approaches to lexical diversity assessment. Behavior Research Methods, 42(2), 381-392.

The main purpose of this study was to examine the validity of the approach to lexical diversity assessment known as the measure of textual lexical diversity (MTLD). The index for this approach is calculated as the mean length of word strings that maintain a criterion level of lexical variation. To validate the MTLD approach, we compared it against the performances of the primary competing indices in the field, which include vocd-D, TTR, Maas, Yule' s K, and an HD-D index derived directly from the hypergeometric distribution function. The comparisons involved assessments of convergent validity, divergent validity, internal validity, and incremental validity. The results of our assessments of these indices across two separate corpora suggest three major find-ings. First, MTLD performs well with respect to all four types of validity and is, in fact, the only index not found to vary as a function of text length. Second, HD-D is a viable alternative to the vocd-D standard. And third, three of the indices—MTLD, vocd-D (or HD-D), and Maas—appear to capture unique lexical information. We conclude by advising researchers to consider using MTLD, vocd-D (or HD-D), and Maas in their studies, rather than any single index, noting that lexical diversity can be assessed in many ways and each approach may be informative as to the construct under investigation.

Solway, A., Geller, A. S., Sederberg, P. B., & Kahana, M. J. (2010). PyParse: A semiautomated system for scoring spoken recall data. Behavior Research Methods, 42(1), 141-147.

Studies of human memory often generate data on the sequence and timing of recalled items, but scoring such data using conventional methods is difficult or impossible. We describe a Python-based semiautomated system that greatly simplifies this task. This software, called PyParse, can easily be used in conjunction with many common experiment authoring systems. Scored data is output in a simple ASCII format and can be accessed with the programming language of choice, allowing for the identification of features such as correct responses, prior-list intrusions, extra-list intrusions, and repetitions

Willander, J., & Baraldi, S. (2010). Development of a new Clarity of Auditory Imagery Scale. Behavior Research Methods, 42(3), 785-790.

In the psychological study of auditory imagery, instruments for measuring vividness or clarity have existed for some time. The present article argues that existing scales are ambiguous, in that clarity and vividness of auditory imagery are addressed simultaneously, and that empirical validations of those scales suffer from inad-equate methods. The aim of the present study was to develop a new psychometric scale, the Clarity of Auditory Imagery Scale, measuring individual differences in clarity of auditory imagery. Drawing on previous literature, 16 items were generated, forming an initial item pool that was presented to 212 respondents. The hypothesized single dimensionality inherent in the data was confirmed using Velicer' s (1976) minimum average partial test and parallel analysis. Also, data were factor analyzed, extracting a stable one-factor solution including all 16 items. The internal consistency of the final scale was satisfactory (coefficient alpha .88). Other properties of the questionnaire, such as test–retest reliability, remain to be established.

Wilson, A., Dollman, J., Lushington, K., & Olds, T. (2010). Reliability of the 5-min psychomotor vigilance task in a primary school classroom setting. Behavior Research Methods, 42(3), 754-758.

This study evaluated the reliability of the 5-min psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) in a single-sex Australian primary school. Seventy-five male students (mean age 11.82 years, SD 1.12) completed two 5-min PVTs using a Palm personal digital assistant (PDA) in (1) an isolated setting and (2) a classroom setting. Of this group of students, a subsample of 37 students completed a test–retest reliability trial within the classroom setting. Using a mixed-model analysis, there was no significant difference in the mean response time (RT) or number of lapses (RTs 500 msec) between the isolated and the classroom setting. There was, however, an order effect for the number of lapses in the isolated setting, with the number of lapses being greater if the isolated test was conducted second. Test–retest intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) in the classroom setting indicated mod-erate to high reliability (mean RT .84, lapses .59). Bland–Altman analysis showed no systematic difference between the two settings. Findings suggest that the 5-min PDA PVT is a reliable measure of sustained attention in the classroom setting in this sample of primary-aged schoolchildren. The results provide further evidence for the versatility of this measuring device for larger interventions outside the laboratory.

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