Network Book ForumJune 2 2022

Network Book Forum: Experiments

of the Mind

Emily Martin,

Iretiolu Akinrinade, Noelle Stout, and Emanuel Moss

“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. 

Further Readings and References

A Prehistory of the Cloud by Tung-Hui Hu

An Engine, Not a Camera by Donald MacKenzie

Coded Bias a Shalini Kantayya film on Joy Buolamwini’s research

MIT Technology Review: How Our Data Encodes Systematic Racism by Deborah Raji

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything by BJ Fogg

Credits and Acknowledgments

Producer: Nazelie Doghramadjian

Editorial: Eryn Loeb

Social Media: Alessa Erawan

Web: Chris Redwood

Post-Production: Kara Constantine

Special thanks to Rigoberto Lara Guzmán for curatorial and engagement support. Additional support provided by Data & Society’s Engagement, Accounting, and Strategy teams.