Aims and topics of these lessons

These lessons…​

  • explain common terms and jargon in cognitive psychological psychology

  • demonstrate what common experiments look like

  • teach about how stimuli used in cognitive psychological experiments can be created

  • teach a little bit about the computer jargon and skills necessary behind setting up your own studies

  • introduce the free statistical software R

  • teach you how to setup your own PsyToolkit projects (with video screen casts)

For whom are these lessons?

These lessons can be used by anyone to learn more about cognitive psychological experiments, such as the Stroop task, and how to set online studies (including online questionnaires). These lessons are suitable for secondary education, undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. They are also useful for researchers who want to use PsyToolkit in their online research.

The lessons are written in simple English without any expectations of prior knowledge of psychology. They come with links to useful resources and references.

If you are teaching psychology, and if you would like to contribute your own lesson, or if you have comments, do not hesitate to contact me.

Different types of lessons

There are six types of lessons.

Introductory lessons

Lesson Description

Computer Basics

This lesson helps students to understand the essentials of computers running PsyToolkit, and it introduces a few programs. Inkscape for creating stimuli. R for data analysis. For Microsoft users, it explains a bit about Notepad++, a free text editor for the Microsoft Operating System (OS):

Common Terms

Introduction to common terms used, such as stimulus, response, trial, task, paradigm.

Lessons about cognitive psychological phenomena and experiments

Lesson Description

Simple vs choice response time tasks

This lesson explains and demonstrates the difference between simple and choice response time tasks.

Stroop Effect

This lesson shows the famous Stroop Effect, possibly the best known psychological experiment in the area of experimental cognitive psychology.

Stimulus-Response Compatibility / Simon task

This lesson explains how response speed and accuracy can be affected by the spatial relationship between stimulus and response location.

Cueing / Posner Task

This lesson shows how to run a simple experiment. It compares responses with the left and right hand, and it shows how a valid cue helps participants to respond faster.

Visual Search

Why is difficult to find your keys in a cluttered room? Because there are so many similar items laying around. Psychologists have carefully studied how we search for things, and how the number of distracters affects performance.

Inhibition Of Return (IOR)

This lesson builds on the cueing lesson and introduces the phenomenon IOR.

ABBA task

This lesson is about when the "opposite" of normal spatial compatibility occurs (like in the Simon effect). It involves action planning, preparation, and memory.

Mental rotation

Can you imagine what an object looks like when it is rotated? People find this quite difficult. Mental rotation is a popular paradigm in psychology, and it is known that men and women perform, on average, differently on this task.

Fitt’s Law

Fitts’s Law describes the relationship between the time it takes to move your arm towards a target based on the distance between you and the target object and it’s size. That is, it takes more time to pick up something small that is far away than something that is close by, but the size of the object can compensate for that.

Negative Priming

This lesson explains how your behavior can be negatively influenced by what you have seen just before.

Lessons about other important software

In depth lessons about some of the software that you will need to become really efficient in using PsyToolkit.

Lesson Description


If you run experiments, you will need to create visual stimuli (although you can also play sounds very easily). Inkscape is a free drawing program to do exactly this. Learn here how.

Starting with R

Some PsyToolkit lessons use the statistical software R. You can follow the lessons without understanding or using R, but if you want to do your own data analyses, you might want to understand R a bit. Of course, you can use other statistical software, like SPSS or Excel instead, depending on your projects and needs.

How to set up a PsyToolkit study

In depth lessons about working with PsyToolkit (with videos telling you how to do things from start to finish).

Learning something new takes time!!! Expected learning time for Psychology students (with at least one year of study behind themselves) is, approximately, as follows:
  1. Understanding the basics of PsyToolkit: At least 1 hour (up to a few hours).

  2. Learning how to setup a questionnaire study: 1 to 5 hours.

  3. Learning how to set up a reaction time experiment: 2 to 10 hours.

  4. Learning how to analyze questionnaire data: 2 hours.

  5. Learning how to analyze experiment data: 5 hours.

  6. Learning to draw stimuli with Inkscape: 20 minutes to 1 day (depending on level of complexity).

  7. Understanding it all really well: A week.

Lesson Description

Setup a complete questionnaire study

Setup a questionnaire from start to finish (without embedded experiments). Everything is explained with video screen casts.

Setup a complete questionnaire with embedded reaction time experiment

An extensive lesson about how to setup a study with PsyToolkit with detailed video screen-casts. This study show how to setup a reaction time experiment and how to embed it in an online questionnaire. Ideal for those who want to set up their own online study. Includes videos on how to do everything from start to finish, including designing stimuli, program experiment code, questionnaire code, data analysis, and more.

Learn how to show stimuli in PsyToolkit experiments

Learn about the basic visual stimuli in PsyToolkit experiments: Bitmaps, rectangles, circles, and texts.

Learning from experiment-code examples

Once you have learned the basics, you might want to see how specific things are done. The examples below give you some tips for "special" things might want to do in experiments.

Even though the examples are not the most common things to do, the examples show what sort of advanced things are possible.
Lesson Description

Showing fixation points

Most experiments will have a fixation point. This lesson shows you three different ways to show fixations points.

Measuring response times

Most experiments require participants to press a button. This lesson explains how to measure which key was pressed for how long.

Experiment which plays sounds

Shows how to add sound stimuli to your study

Choose items with mouse

Shows how participant can select and deselect items. This is useful for memory experiments

Run block until criterion reached

This is useful for tasks in which you want to train participants up to specific performance level.

Experiment with a Likert scale

Shows how to add a Likert scale in an experiment (rarely needed and for advanced users only)

Learning from survey-code examples

Once you have learned the basics, you might want to see how specific things are done. The examples below give you some tips for things people often want to do in online surveys.

Lesson Description

Questionnaire with images

Setup a questionnaire with smiley face icons to rate items (instead with text).

Questionnaire with embedded video

Learn how to embed a video in your online questionnaire and ask questions about it. Also explains scales and scoring in more detail.