Dr. Malte Wöstmann on his investigation of the relationship between personality measured by the big 5 and auditory perception in Labvanced

Personality captures dissociations of subjective versus objective hearing in noise

Researcher: Dr. rer. nat. Malte Wöstmann, University of Lübeck

Do aspects of your personality really correlate to your brainpower? According to recent research by Dr. Malte Wöstmann and his team from Germany, two of the Big-5 personality traits are related to a person’s ability to interpret speech in the presence of noise. Check out the paper hereopen in new window and read about the team’s success in using Labvanced for this project:

What is your field of study?

I conduct research in Auditory Cognition. This is different from audiological processes like hearing; it is specifically cognitive processing of acoustic stimuli, how the brain interprets sounds. I am interested in how personality is related to hearing, which is what is discussed in this specific study.

What has been your most exciting research project?

This project about personality and listening in noise was very exciting. It was a quick screening test, only about 20 minutes, but this made it more interesting than previous studies. The large sample size was exciting due to its statistical power, showing us a small but significant effect of certain aspects of personality. We were quite conservative with this study and had to be clever with our catch trials to ensure there were no fake responses. We were surprised to find that very few participants were removed based on catch trial responses. This project was exciting because the data quality was quite convincing in demonstrating an effect.

What are your next steps with this research?

While we do not have concrete plans yet, the idea is to compliment this research with more listening tests and to increase the sample size even further. With a larger sample size and a longer study, we could even measure changes in listening ability over time, looking at the important concept of listening effort.

How did you choose Labvanced for your research?

Caspar Goeke had come to the university to advertise the platform, so I was interested from that presentation. About a year later, we revisited Labvanced and realized that it was the easiest choice for our project. There was no need to learn how to set up server space ourselves and it was very convenient.

What stands out to you about Labvanced?

We were surprised to find that our online results looked very much like in-lab results. The absolute values of our paradigms seemed to match, and because of this consistency, we were convinced that what we were doing was meaningful. Without comparing to other platforms, we found it nice to see how quicky the data comes in from participants. The study implementation was very fast and convenient. One of our projects was an adaptive task, which is complicated in general, but even that was possible and convenient to set up. At first, we were afraid to go live and begin our data collection due to the complexity of the task. However, we performed lots of piloting and ended up with a 99% success rate.

In what ways is conducting research online different from in-lab?

Both methods have their positives and negatives. I think if we switched to entirely online research, I would miss those personal experiences with participants and lose the ability to see behavioral cues that lead to further research questions. Some things can only be done in person. However, online research definitely helps in collecting large amounts of data quickly, especially during summers and times when there are not a lot of students around to participate. Having both options is definitely the best way to go about research, because there are different packages for different settings.

Do you see online research as the future of your field?

The evidence speaks for itself! Online research is a compliment to in-person studies. It is a good way to establish the existence of an effect quickly and to know how big of an effect it is, which helps inform the decision of whether it is worth investigating in-person. You can collect data quickly and cheaply. Combining the two – first running a bigger online study, then doing an in-person study, you can focus on a small portion of the original population and hand-pick participants to examine an effect very specifically.

What would you recommend to students hoping to begin research in your field?

The experiments I learned most from are the ones I piloted the most. You want to make sure there is an effect big enough to investigate, and go big first before you refine your design. Students often start with a very specific experiment before they figure out if the effect can even be seen, which leads to a thesis full of null results. Writing about null results can be very insightful, but only if there truly is a null effect versus a very small and specific effect that can be seen in certain situations. Go with a broader study with good potential to find something, then refine it down.

Do you have a message to share with other Labvanced users?

For those who are very conservative or not convinced in the power of Labvanced: just try it! It is so easy to set up a small study and send it to a handful of pilot subjects. Just try it out, it is fun to see the data come in so quickly.