, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 428-434

Comparing online and lab methods in a problem-solving experiment

Abstract

Online experiments have recently become very popular, and—in comparison with traditional lab experiments— they may have several advantages, such as reduced demand characteristics, automation, and generalizability of results to wider populations (Birnbaum, 2004; Reips, 2000, 2002a, 2002b). We replicated Dandurand, Bowen, and Shultz’s (2004) lab-based problem-solving experiment as an Internet experiment. Consistent with previous results, we found that participants who watched demonstrations of successful problem-solving sessions or who read instructions outperformed those who were told only that they solved problems correctly or not. Online participants were less accurate than lab participants, but there was no interaction with learning condition. Thus, we conclude that online and Internet results are consistent. Disadvantages included high dropout rate for online participants; however, combining the online experiment with the department subject pool worked well.

This work began as a project completed for a graduate seminar in Human Factors and Ergonomics, taught by D. C. Donderi in the McGill University Department of Psychology.