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Perceptual experiments: collection of all answers

Hi all,

I had asked the following question some time back:

I plan to do some perceptual experiments during the course of my research
here. Since, I am completely new to this, I wanted to know if there are
any softwares that help in doing perceptual experiments (organising
stimuli, collecting results, designing questionairre, making the interface

Thanks to the members, I got a lot of responses. For the benefit of everyone else on the list, here's collection of responses I got:

Hi Tarun

I think a good software is e-prime. I have never used it, but most of the people
I work with use this program to set up experiments.
The licence is a little bit expensive,anyway take a look and check if it could
be good for you



Dear Tarun,

There is not many free software for this, and proprietary software is very
I suggest you have a look at MUSHRAM, which is distributed under the GPL license
at http://www.elec.qmul.ac.uk/digitalmusic/downloads/#mushram.

Best regards,

Emmanuel Vincent


There is a program called MEDS written by Roger Kendall. This is
specifically a windows based program but is a nice interface for
developing perceptual experiments.
I believe this is the link:
This would be a good start. If you have a specific setup in mind let me
know there may be more available.
  Good luck,
   Jonathan P. Orose


hi, in reference to your question about software for perceptual

we use MAX/msp   to design and generate our stimuli.  the timing is
consistent if your  computer or interface has a buffer vector size of 32
bits or less.     the only drawback to max is that it's pretty heavy on
the programming aspect.

you can even create a type of gui that your subjects can use if you
wish.   it's quite versatile.

some people use matlab but we find that there  (we use it on a mac osX)
is some inconsistencies in the latency.  matlab is great for analysis
though.  wouldn't use anything else.

i hope this is helpful for you.

Summer Rankin


Dear Tarun Pruthi,

You can download some useful software from the Summer Institute of
Linguistics, www.sil.org/computing/catalog/index.asp, and also from
www.praat.org.   I wrote some software in Java for my Ph.D. dissertation
in Linguistics at Georgetown University
(http://www.georgetown.edu/departments/linguistics/Defense/Kripkee.pdf --
before revisions.  Final revised version upon request.) to present
sounds, capture responses, and analyze the data.  If you are interested,
I'd be happy to send you both runtimes and source code.


Bernard Kripkee

Hi Tarun,
You don't specify what kinds of perceptual experiments you have in mind (e.g.
visual, auditory, or others). There are a number of programs available for
stimulus presentation and data collection, such as E-Prime
(http://www.pstnet.com/products/e-prime/) , Media Lab
(http://www.empirisoft.com/), Authorware
(http://www.macromedia.com/software/authorware/) , Super Lab
(http://www.superlab.com/). None of them is free of charge. They all allow the
use of various types of stimuli, questionnaires, randomization of presentation or
stimuli etc.




E-Prime is a very useable program for generating experiments and organizing
results. See link below:

Jeremy Gaston


Hey Tarun,

I found myself with the same question at the beginning of my PhD two years ago. I
don't have experience with any special software for perceptual experiments. Well,
since you mentioned you are completely new to this I assume you are at the
starting point of your research, so, I would strongly recommend you to learn a
programming language (if you don't know one already) and program your experiments
yourself. I know it might look scaring at the beginning but certainly pays off.
The main advantage I see, is that there are no black boxes in your experiment
chain, you can have complete control over it and adjust everything as you wish.
If you focus on learning object-oriented programming you will realize that you
can easily reuse code for further experiments without spending so much time.

Pablo Faundez Hoffmann


you could try the "Presentation" program.
it's a bit clumsy, but you can try it for free and it's really flexible, when you
master it. and has got very good tutorial as well.



Allthough I couldn't agree more with Pablo about learning an (object oriented)
programming language, such as c++, there is an alternative that might by useful,
namely E-prime
It can be used to collect all kinds of psychofysical data with the help of a
computer and the programming is done in an environment similar to Visual Basic,
which might be less intimidating than starting from scratch with c++.

Anders Genell


I agree about E-prime (although it can be cumbersome) and also offer the thought
of using JavaScript in html files if you have anyone around who could provide
some support. While that still involves learning a programming language, it's a
little less intimidating that a full blown object oriented programming language.


Hello Tarun,

if you use a Mac-plattform, there is a free software named PsyScope. It is
similar to E-prime (which we use sometimes, too). In our opinion, Psyscope
has proven itsself to be very powerful for collecting behavioral data in
psychological experiments (like judgements, performance data etc.). We use
it since 1998, appr. 30-40 experiments, appr. 2000 participants ...

Good luck!


I agree with the suggestion to learn a real programming language.

I suggest you take a look at "Python + pygame (www.pygame.org)" which will
give you a lot a flexibility (+ it is multiplatform).

"Praat" (www.praat.org) also allows to run perceptual experiments.

Christophe Pallier


As long as we are all throwing our 2 cents in, I'd suggest Matlab as a great
place to start. It has the advantage of being a single environment in which you
can design stimuli, collect and analyze data and perform model simulations. It
also provides a very flexible graphical output mechanism. In addition, the
number of labs using it is very large, providing a wide range of fellow-users to
draw upon.

In terms of programming, I have written experiments in Max/MSP, Psyscope, Pascal
and Matlab and find Matlab to be a wonderful compromise between high-level opaque
programs and low-level, steep-learning-curve languages.

Erick Gallun

 Tucker Davis' SykoFizX software has a lot of "canned" paradigms which
can be modified (although not as easily as the advertisements

ECoS (by avaaz innovations)is easy to use, but is not very flexible.

Barbara E. Acker-Mills, Ph.D.


Greetings Tarun,
        For Windows platforms, Presentation (www.neurobs.com) might be a
good choice, particularly if you are interfacing to physiological
recording equipment.  It supports calibrated outputs and enables you to
control multi-channel sound cards (e.g., 24 bit/96k)  with several
different modes for sound mixing.  It can play pre-recorded sounds,
synthesize relatively simple sounds, and has a Matlab interface for more
complicated tasks.  There are also some freeware tools for calibrating the
timing  of your stimuli (a problem in multi-tasking systems) with a
variety of calibration results from different sound cards.posted on the
website.    A full-functioning version of Presentation can be downloaded
for free and used for 45 days.  Student licenses are $99/yr.  Example
experiments are available both on the website and at www.neuroexpt.com .
That site also contains links to about 15 other software platforms that
might be considered for stimulus delivery.

David L. Woods


Cogent is a free  toolbox for Matlab that is supposed to make it easy to run a
wide variety of experiments:

DMDX has also recommended to me:

I have no personal experience of either of these.

Stuart Rosen, PhD


SuperCollider is an object oriented audio processing language:


I've been using it to create experiments, settings as well as stimuli (it has the
usual GUI facilities etc). It's very powerful in particular if you need sound
synthesis (you can also use it for live computer music if you need a weekend

It's open source, free and cross-platform. No guarantees that it's any easier to
learn that Python, MATLAB etc, just giving you more options...


Here is my personal experience about programming languages, in an academic

I am very new to the field of audio applications, but in general I tend to
recommend OCaml (Objective Caml) for many applications. I've been using it
for 6-7 years for developing bioinformatics programs and I am still extremely
pleased with it.
It is a multi-purpose, high-level, high-productivity language, with a steep
learning curve, but extremely comfortable to work with since the compiler catches
most of your mistakes. You don't have to run your programs a zillion times before
you can make it work.

I don't like C because it makes me waste my time. I don't like C++ because it's
not safer than C, just more complicated. I don't like Python because I can't
afford to run my programs under all possible conditions to have an idea if they
are correct or not, and occasionally it is too slow. Ada, Java for what I know
are pretty verbose, that's not a good thing for my productivity. Haskell is
supposed to be good but the monad thing, ... no thank you. And Matlab, well, not
everything in life is a matrix, right?

That's just my opinion though, and of course I am far from being a specialist of
these languages, except for OCaml :-)

Official site: http://caml.inria.fr
Tutorial: http://www.ocaml-tutorial.org
Book "OCaml for scientists":
  (you can ask the author Jon Harrop, he has a different experience than
  me and I am sure he will be glad to advertize OCaml further)
Beginner's mailing list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ocaml_beginners/


Martin Jambon, PhD


Hi Tarun,

You could try ALVIN, by James Hillenbrand and Robert Gayvert. This is
an open source software for experiment design and control. It is a
pretty easy one to figure out!


Hope this helps,

Radhika Aravamudhan