VSL:SCIENCE // Become a Cognition Lab guinea pig from home

Want to play the part of a psych-lab guinea pig? Indulge that desire — and advance the cause of science — at the Cognition and Language Lab website.

Here, you can try to guess the definitions of neologisms coined from existing words, read conversations between parents and children (and guess the children’s ages), and name newly invented objects based on the pictures and spoken descriptions you’re given. Why bother? Because the games are fun, and because the site’s creator — a Harvard graduate student named Josh Hartshorne — has already used the data from a previous experiment in a published study. (That experiment tackled the question of why our visual working memory, which can store no more than four items, is so “piddly compared to verbal memory,” which can store up to 100. As visual as we are, it seems, we’re much better at stashing words than images. ) So spend a few minutes in Hartshorne’s lab, and spend the weekend telling friends and neighbors that you, too, studied at Harvard.

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