come say hi at SPSP – coffee, sugar, and climate change – open and reproducible science

This week, at the society for personality and social psychology’s annual convention, I’m speaking in a symposium, rethinking health behavior change. I will talk about a study in which we* tested strategies to help people reduce the amount of sweetener added to their daily coffee (ideally without reducing enjoyment of it**). I’m also presenting a poster on how people talk to others about making behavioral changes that affect the environment.

One thing that excites me about these studies–they represent my first (admittedly clumsy) attempts at being completely reproducible and open with my science. Datasets, R analysis scripts, hypotheses, and all other study materials are publicly available***, and were preregistered****.

Openness and reproducibility in science fascinate me—both as a topic of research and as a guiding principle for my own research. Since starting graduate school, I have preregistered (nearly) all of my studies and have been working toward making the entire process transparent. I’ve also been learning how to write reproducible code in R. It has been challenging… you know, for the obvious reasons… misaligned incentives, human fallibility, complexity, and time. BUT, I’ve learned a lot (i think*****), and it has made me a better scientist (i think******). If nothing else, I can now make these cool graphs (below) for conference talks (and next time I won’t have to spend way too much time trying to make them look pretty*******).

Psych friends, come say hi at SPSP. Here’s the time and location for my talk and poster (and related scripts and files, here and here). Or, let’s just get a drink.

*me, Traci Mann, and Tim (our coffee connoisseur collaborator).

**that’s the hard part… sugar is yummy.

*** public project pages for the “coffee study” and “social message framing study” (the one climate change).

****an uneditable public archive of the study plan that is time-stamped prior to collecting (or looking at) data.

*****i welcome feedback and comments (particular on my R code). let me know if you find errors or have suggestions for improvement.

******hard to test empirically. though I’m pretty darn sure reproducibility and openness make Science better.

*******the beauty of reproducible code.

Sneak peek at SPSP presentation figures.


^Here’s the code (viewable in any web browser).


^Here’s the code.

p.s. HT to Simine Vazire whose blog inspired the above footnote style. #usefulbloghack.


Links That Tickled Me

  1. A paper on Twitch Crowdsourcing. An App that holds potential for Ecological Momentary Assessment research.
  2. FDA proposes update to Nutrition Facts label on food packages. The changes would be implemented through two rulings that  are taking public comment until June 2, 2014. Tell the FDA what you think here and here.
  3. Inside The Barista Class. It’s long, but work your way to the end. It’s worth it. Courtesy @zaw56, dude is full of ticklish links.
  4. Debt and Darkness in Detroit. A photo essay on street-lighting and it’s relationship to urban prosperity.

Day 1: Does Coffee Make You Smarter?

This post is a part of a series, see previous post.

Like with most resolutions starting was the hardest part. It has been a little over a week since I declared my resolution to undertake a daily self-experiment (publicly mind you) on coffee. But public humiliation couldn’t stop me from procrastinating–change is hard. Of course each morning post-declaration I woke up with a different rationalization for not changing my behavior: “It’s still the holidays, I deserve a break.”; “I got up too late, I’ll do it tomorrow.”; “I’m twitching, I can’t wait, I need my coffee now!” But now, finally, the experiment is under way. I am using a tool developed by Stephen M. Kosslyn (a psychologist at Stanford) and his co-conspirators Yoni Donner and Nick Winter to facilitate this experiement. If you interested in self-experiments, quantified-self, or how to use data for self-improvement I suggest you check it out.

So today I started with the new morning routine and documented the process with some notes.

Day 1: Test-Before-Coffee

Start time: Mon, 6 Jan 2014 08:45:45 End time: Mon, 6 Jan 2014 09:02:42

Sporadic Notes: I commenced just 5 minutes after waking up. I am a groggy morning person so it will be interesting to see how this may affect my results. I expect to see improvement throughout the testing period on test-before-coffee days since it became evident that as I shook the sleepydust from my eyes the tests got easier. I’ll check back on this latter in the month. Several of the tests had rules that took me a few second to understand. I restarted these confused-trials to ensure an accurate measurement. On one of the tests (“Design Copy”) I took a practice trial to make sure I understood the rules. The practice trial is recorded on the results page so I assume it will be incorporated into analysis.

Learnings: In the morning I need to read directions twice. Use practice trial if unsure. Tapping the space bar as fast as you can is a good way to get your family out of bed.

Stay tuned for forthcoming notes and results.

Does Coffee Make You Smarter?


Coffee has become my morning staple and a key to my productivity. After a good cup I feel fast, focussed, witty, and smart. I am curious if these feelings of augmented intellectual efficiency are real or just an illusion of a brain that just satisfied a fix. So I’m conducting a self experiment. The protocol is simple. Every morning I will drink 8 ounces of my favorite liquid elixir between 7-9 AM. On day one I will take cognitive tests right before my cup. On day two I will drink my cup, wait 45 minutes and then compete the tests. Other factors such a food intake and exercise will be tracked to examine correlates. This daily alteration will continue for about a month at which point I will share my results.


[Cartoon courtesy Mark Anderson.]