Tutorial on PEBL
Held at the 2011 Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
1pm-4pm, Wednesday, July 20, 2011
About: A half-day workshop will be held on PEBL as part of the Cognitive Science Meeting. To attend, you must register for the entire conference. You do not, however, need to register specifically for the tutorial, or pay extra fees for the tutorial.
Tutorial on using the Psychology Experiment Building Language (PEBL) in the Laboratory, the Field, and the Classroom
Presented by: Shane T. Mueller, Ph.D.
Applied Research Associates
Prior to the tutorial, download the following. Copies of these files will also be available the day of the tutorial.
All users should download a copy of the tutorial documents: http://sourceforge.net/projects/pebl/files/special/tutorial-docs.zip/download
Also, download the file for your platform of choice:
For Linux: Ubuntu/Debian .deb file for PEBL 0.12 available at:
Laboratory and field research in cognitive science often uses computer-based tools to design experiments and collect data. Although researchers are typically happy to exchange the data obtained from such studies, sharing the actual software used to collect the data is more difficult. This partly stems from the widespread use of special-purpose proprietary software tools to collect data, which prevents exchange and review of the actual experiment specification (without purchasing costly licenses) and can at times prevent researchers from accessing their own past experiments. Often, without a good understanding of the exact experiment, the data can be of little use. Furthermore, such systems are typically tied to a particular operating system platform, reducing the ability to exchange, modify, and evaluate details of an experiment. This is an obstacle to scientific progress, where it is critical to be able to share, evaluate, modify, and test the paradigms that we use to develop and test theory.
The Psychology Experiment Building Language (PEBL; Mueller, 2003; 2010) was developed to overcome these obstacles. It is a cross-platform Free (GPL) software tool for designing and running computer-based laboratory research that has been in development for the past eight years, and is used in research laboratories around the world. PEBL incorporates a set of approximately 50 standard laboratory tests which are increasingly becoming the standard non-commercial versions of classic neuropsychology tests (including, for example, tests such as the Wisconsin Card Sort, Iowa Gambling Task, Tower of London task, and pursuit rotor task). PEBL is a non-commercial community-supported project that aims to enable experiments to be shared as easily as data.
This half-day tutorial will provide experiential training for using PEBL in laboratory and field research, and in the classroom. It will begin with the basics of using PEBL and its standardized tests, with a discussion of the growing body of published literature using PEBL. Basics of the language will be covered to enable attendees to understand the workings of existing experiments and to modify them. Following this, we will develop one or more experiments 'from scratch' to highlight the important basic steps in experimental design. We will conclude with discussions and examples using PEBL outside the laboratory, in field research, questionnaires, and classroom settings. As an outcome of this tutorial, attendees will have the ability to incorporate a powerful tool into their teaching and research repertoire, which both makes research easier to conduct and enables improved and open scientific exchange and standardization.
Dr. Mueller is the originator and developer of the PEBL, and has implemented each of the tests in the PEBL Test Battery. He is a cognitive scientist studying human performance and decision making in the field and the laboratory, and developed PEBL to reduce the complexity of developing experiments in these settings. He is a Senior Research Scientist at Applied Research Associates, Inc., in Dayton, OH.
 Need/Justification for Tutorial:
Developing new experiments in PEBL is fairly simple, but can require guidance and direct feedback to understand its methods and intent, which is best handled in a tutorial/workshop setting. PEBL has the potential to be useful for laboratory researchers and instructors within the cognitive science community. These especially include empirical laboratory research psychologists and linguists, which constitute a large proportion of the membership of the cognitive science society, and the attendees of the conference.
The target audience is primarily researchers in psychology and related disciplines who are involved in empirical work doing laboratory data collection. It will be targeted to two main groups: (1) graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and faculty researchers who design and conduct laboratory experiments; and (2) instructors who wish to enhance classroom instruction using experiment demonstrations.
 Special Requirements:
Participants will need to bring a laptop (Windows, Linux, or OSX), and should download/install the PEBL software and PEBL User Manual at http://pebl.sourceforge.net prior to the tutorial.
 About PEBL
- PEBL is Free psychology software for creating experiments .
- PEBL allows researchers to design their own experiments or use ready-made ones
- PEBL enables the exchange of experiments without license or fee
- PEBL offers a simple programming language tailor-made for creating and conducting many standard experiments. It is Free software, licensed under the GPL, with both the compiled executables and source code available without charge.
- PEBL is designed to be easily used on multiple computing platforms, and compiles natively under Win32, Linux, and Macintosh Operating Systems. PEBL is used by researchers around the world.
 PEBL Website:
PEBL Tutorial Syllabus
1. Introduction, Background, Goals
- Using the PEBL launcher.
- Language and Syntax
- Input and Output
- Response collection
- Randomization and Experimental Design
- Review of available tests
- Modifying test example 1.
- The PEBL Programming Philosophy
- Development Strategy
- Create Stimulus
- Experiment Template
- Small-scale applications for data coding, recording field data
- Demonstration: PEBL in the classroom
- Demonstration: Creating Surveys and Questionnaires using a spreadsheet.
- Open Tests, Open Norms