“The brand new fiber optic tables all over the country are actually laid down along the lines of old railroad tracks…. something so new and shiny and digital is using the infrastructure from something really old. That gave me a way to describe what I was trying to do with the psychological experimentation work.” —Emily Martin
Experimental cognitive psychology research is a hidden force in our online lives. We engage with it, often unknowingly, whenever we download a health app, complete a Facebook quiz, or rate our latest purchase. How did experimental psychology come to play an outsized role in these developments? In Experiments of the Mind, Emily Martin traces how psychological research methods evolved, escaped the boundaries of the discipline, and infiltrated social media and our digital universe.
Contrary to claims about the field’s focus on isolated individuals, Martin finds that the history of experimental psychology has led to research methods that are highly social. And she shows how these methods are deployed online: Amplified by troves of data and powerful machine learning, an unprecedented model of human psychology — one in which statistical measures are paired with algorithms to predict and influence users’ behavior — is now widespread. Experiments of the Mind examines how psychology research has shaped us to be perfectly suited for our networked age.
On June 2, Emily Martin discussed her book with Data & Society Research Analyst Iretiolu Akinrinade, Apple University Program in Advanced Teaching and Research faculty Noelle Stout, and Data & Society and Cornell Tech Joint Postdoctoral Scholar Emanuel Moss.