Many departments of the University of Oxford and other institutions in the city and its surroundings run paid experiments. But is it a good idea to participate in them? In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Oxford’s experimental laboratories, the experiments, and tests they run, how much they pay, and whether it’s a good idea to participate.
So... What Are Oxford's Paid Experiments?
When I moved to Oxford about a hundred years ago, many university departments ran paid psychology experiments. It was really easy to participate in them; you could sign up on a list and receive invitations or apply directly through email and websites. The mechanisms remain the same, although payment has changed a little since I last tried one, and there are now many virtual experiments you can do remotely.
So, what are these paid experiments the university and other institutions run, and can anyone join? Let’s start by talking about the experiments held by the Department of Experimental Psychology, as these are the most popular ones in Oxford.
The University of Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology is a world-leading research facility studying the psychological and neural mechanisms most relevant to human behaviour. This immersive scientific institution uses cutting-edge methodologies. Now, here’s the exciting part: By being in Oxford, a multi-cultural, extremely international city, they are able to test these ideas in what’s considered a highly diverse and inclusive environment.
This is why, if you live in Oxford, you will frequently see invitations to participate in social and medical experiments. It’s not just the Department of Experimental Psychology that runs these; you will frequently see ads for John Radcliffe Hospital and many other groups interested in seeing how you react to various stimuli, talking about your mental health experiences, and testing all sorts of fascinating concepts.
What's The Average Pay for an Oxford Experiment?
Most of these experiments carried out by the University of Oxford and its surrounding institutions are paid. You will be offered remuneration to compensate you for your time, although in most cases you’ll be considered a volunteer – so the remuneration will be designed to cover things like travel expenses.
Laboratory experiments typically pay £5 for coming to a session, and you’ll be able to earn an additional average of £10 per hour for your participation. This is all paid in person and in cash. Payment for virtual experiments varies, and it’s done through Paypal.
What Do You Typically Do In A Paid Experiemnt?
Because most experimental research in psychology involves measuring human behaviour, you will be expected to be involved in a variety of activities. A lot of times, these involve playing computer games and filling out questionnaires. Sometimes, you will be asked to participate in psychological measurements, like eye tracking or brain activity (through electroencephalography or a functional MRI, for example). And, if you’re lucky, you might be able to experience virtual reality projects, too.
All experiments take place under the guidelines of a local ethics committee and you can withdraw from the studies at any time. The process of joining an experimental at Oxford is usually:
- You review and sign a form that explains all aspects of the experiment.
- You join the experiment and are asked to make decisions or provide answers to survey questions.
- Your payment is determined based on your decisions.
Now, the last point can feel rather vague if you haven’t participated in any of these social and psychological experiments before. When I was doing mine, most experiments revolved around receiving money and having to decide, for example, if you want to share it with others for a chance to duplicate the amount (or just keep what you have and know you’ll be given the chance at the end of the session).
Can Anyone Participate in These Paid Experiments?
Yes, there are usually not many requirements except being over 18 years of age. It depends on the experiment, really.
Some (especially the ones that want to compare behaviours across a varied group of people) are open to all. Others, particularly medical research projects, look for specific audiences – such as people who have suffered from depression or anxiety, or people who have been resistant to certain treatments.
Before you apply to an Oxford paid experiment, make sure you read the description carefully to see whether you can apply.
Where to Apply for Paid Experiments at Oxford
Because the Centre for Experimental Social Science (CESS) is dedicated to all areas of experimental social science research, you will be able to find many laboratory and virtual laboratory experiments through their website. You can sign up for their experiments mailing list using the links below.
You can also join trials seeking volunteers here.