Gorilla in our midst: an online behavioral experiment builder

Alexander L. Anwyl-Irvine, Jessica Massonnié, Adam Flitton, Natasha Kirkham, Jo K. Evershed*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Behavioral researchers are increasingly conducting their studies online, to gain access to large and diverse samples that would be difficult to get in a laboratory environment. However, there are technical access barriers to building experiments online, and web browsers can present problems for consistent timing—an important issue with reaction-time-sensitive measures. For example, to ensure accuracy and test–retest reliability in presentation and response recording, experimenters need a working knowledge of programming languages such as JavaScript. We review some of the previous and current tools for online behavioral research, as well as how well they address the issues of usability and timing. We then present the Gorilla Experiment Builder (gorilla.sc), a fully tooled experiment authoring and deployment platform, designed to resolve many timing issues and make reliable online experimentation open and accessible to a wider range of technical abilities. To demonstrate the platform’s aptitude for accessible, reliable, and scalable research, we administered a task with a range of participant groups (primary school children and adults), settings (without supervision, at home, and under supervision, in both schools and public engagement events), equipment (participant’s own computer, computer supplied by the researcher), and connection types (personal internet connection, mobile phone 3G/4G). We used a simplified flanker task taken from the attentional network task (Rueda, Posner, & Rothbart, 2004). We replicated the “conflict network” effect in all these populations, demonstrating the platform’s capability to run reaction-time-sensitive experiments. Unresolved limitations of running experiments online are then discussed, along with potential solutions and some future features of the platform.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-407
Number of pages20
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number1
Early online date23 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • attentional control
  • browser timing
  • online methods
  • online research
  • remote testing
  • timing accuracy
  • UKRI
  • ESRC
  • 13115739


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