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Researcher Interview: Dr. Sara Finley

The core mission of FindingFive is to make the life of behavioral researchers just a little bit easier when it comes to conducting online studies. We are curious about how much success we have achieved, and how much work there is left to do. To that end, we asked a few researcher users of FindingFive for their thoughts on the FindingFive experience.

Hey, who are you? Please tell us a little about yourself.

Dr. Finley and Lacey

My name is Sara Finley, and I’m an associate professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University, located in Tacoma, WA (the South Puget Sound area of the Pacific Northwest). I primarily teach undergraduate psychology courses, and mentor undergraduate students on a variety of research topics. My general research area is in phonology, morphology, and language learning. I’m really interested in what generalization to novel items in miniature language learning tasks can tell us about how we represent the sounds and words of our languages.

When did you start conducting web-based studies? What were the initial obstacles to moving an in-lab study online?

I first tried to get an online study going around 2013, but I was running into a lot of hurdles with the programming and putting the sound files onto a server, which I didn’t have access to at my university.

What types of web-based studies have you conducted using FindingFive?

We do miniature language learning studies in my lab, and I’ve been able to run several studies using FindingFive. In these studies, participants are exposed to words from a made-up language and then tested on novel words to investigate what they learned and inferred from the training. Some of the studies involve just listening to words, while others require the participant to learn mappings between an image and auditory word. The test usually involves a 2 alternative forced choice task where participants are asked to select between two items (usually one that is grammatical, and the other ‘ungrammatical’).

My collaborator Peter Staroverov and I recently ran a study on the perceptual constraints on infixation (infixation is when an affix goes inside a word, like in ‘fan-flippin-tastic’), looking to see what infixations into consonant clusters can tell us about the nature of syllables.

What is the most valuable feature of FindingFive for you?

Most of the students that I work with have no programming experience, and are often afraid of highly technical software. Even though FindingFive does require coding, the base is relatively straightforward, and allows students who otherwise would never do any coding to get their hands dirty, and learn how ‘picky’ (as one student put it) code can be. The web-based interface is great because students do not need to be on campus to use it, making it easier for students (and myself) to access. I also like how the program checks your code in real time, so we can see where there is an error right away.

The crash course is really great because students can complete that relatively independently and have a basically working experiment within a few hours. It gives students a lot of confidence to continue.

What other platforms have you used in the past? Did you code your experiments yourself?

“I really love how FindingFive lets you upload all your stimuli files onto their server, making it really easy to use audio and visual files in experiments. “

Dr. Sara Finley (Pacific Lutheran University)

I use Qualtrics for data collection with surveys, but I would not recommend it for anything that requires complex stimuli presentation, especially if you need to use a lot of stimuli files, like we do in our language learning studies. I’ve also tried to use Experigen, and while my level of programming skill is okay, I had a lot of trouble getting the program to connect to a server, and load my files properly. I really love how FindingFive lets you upload all your stimuli files onto their server, making it really easy to use audio and visual files in experiments.

If you could ask for one feature on FindingFive, what would it be? How will it make your research easier?

It may already be possible to do this, but I don’t know how – for example, I have maybe 50 audio files paired with 50 pictures in a study. It would be nice to have a list of the audio and a list of the video and have FindingFive pair them up together so that I don’t need to manually pair them up each in a different trial template. That would save a lot of time.

Another thing that could be nice is to have SONA integration for assigning credits automatically to participants once they complete their study.

This interview was conducted by sending our questions to FindingFive researchers via email. Responses were edited for length and typos. Researchers do not receive any compensation for participating in our interviews. If you’re a researcher using FindingFive and are interested in sharing your experience with us, please reach out to our researcher help team at!

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