Mass participation experiments

Much of Professor Richard Wiseman's work has involved carrying out mass participation experiments involving thousands of people and some of this work involves collaborative projects with the media.

One such project examined the psychology of lying, and involved the public voting on which of two interviews contained a lie. Transcripts of these interviews were printed in The Daily Telegraph, the soundtrack was broadcast on BBC Radio One and the film of the interviews was shown on BBC1.

Over 40,000 people took part in the study and the results, published in Nature, suggested that vocal and verbal cues are more reliable indicators of deceit than visual cues.

"Mind Machines"

Other work using this type of methodology has examined the psychology of facial expressions and humour. Prof Wiseman has also conducted mass participation studies employing ‘Mind Machines’ - interactive multimedia kiosks present the public with an opportunity to participate in psychological experiments.

The first Mind Machine, designed by Prof Wiseman and Dr Emma Greening, involved asking the public to try to psychically predict the outcome of a random coin toss. This kiosk collected over a quarter of a million datapoints during a year-long tour of shopping centres and science festivals.

A second Mind Machine, created by Prof Wiseman in collaboration with Dr Adrian Owen and Dr Daniel Bor (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge), tested the public’s short-term spatial memory and was commissioned by the British Association for the Advancement of Science as part of their ‘Creating Sparks’ Festival of Science.

The kiosk collected several thousand datapoints whilst in the Wellcome Wing of the London Science Museum, and the results of the study were published in Neuron.