Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why do we need more cognitive test programs?
  2. What validation data do you have?
  3. How Do I Work With WiltonLogic?
  4. What do I need to run the software?

Why do we need more cognitive test programs?

This is the question that comes up most frequently. Of course, it is natural that most people who are already doing research on cognition are satisfied with the procedures that they are already using. They have often invested a lot of effort in getting their studies set up, and there would be a significant cost in changing. Getting such people to change would be a difficult job, and we are not trying to do it.

There are very many psychological tests described in the literature, so it would be quite wrong to suggest that a single particular test it all that is needed. Some tests are used more frequently than others, and have more extensive validation data, so they become a de facto gold standard. Again, we are not trying to replace these tests, either. We need a yardstick to compare what we are doing with work already published in the literature, and these gold standards provide an excellent bridge to do this.

The main reason why it is worth considering new tests is that knowledge in psychology, like all areas of science, moves on. Many of the classic tests were devised over 50 years ago, and our ideas about how the mind works, and how the brain functions have developed since then. The best of the old tests were sufficiently well thought out that they still have value today, but that should not prevent us from trying to devise new ways of studying behavior that are directed towards topics and approaches that are current today. Technology moves on, too. It was simply not possible to use computers to administer tests back when many of them were devised. Such computers simply didn't exist. Pencil and paper, flip charts or card packs were the only way to show pictures, and capture spoken or written replies. That isn't the case today, and many researchers and therapist use computer administered tests as part of their studies or clinical assessments. Some of these are computerized version of the classic tests, and some are new tests designed to take advantage of the particular capabilities of modern computers. WiltonLogic is doing a bit of both.

Another reason for considering new tests comes from thinking about why the existing tests were devised in the first place. The researchers who thought them up had their own research goals, their own scientific questions they were trying to answer, and the tests they came up with were designed to meet their own needs. As mentioned above, sometimes these are rooted in the controversies of the past, others focused on the hot topics of today. It would be wrong to think that all areas of research are thoroughly covered by existing tests. WiltonLogic began by developing tests of impulsive behavior. Impulsivity is an area of research which has primarily been studied using questionnaires. A number of computerized behavioral tests have been described in the literature. Usually they are used by a small group of researchers, and none of them can be said to be a gold standard. We felt there was an opportunity to add to the tool box.

In recent years there has been an increasing emphasis on translational research, that is the need to show that basic science can provide useful information to increase our understanding of disease and guide the search for treatments. In neuroscience this often means translating findings from basic biology carried out in animals to clinical research carried out in human beings. The extent to which you should use the same behavioral tasks in non-human animals and human beings is a matter of some debate, given human's highly developed brain, and linguistic and numerical capabilities. At WiltonLogic we address this issue this way would you feel more comfortable in comparing data from two tests that look similar in a non-human animal and a human being, or in two tests which are completely different? Which situation is most likely (but not certain, of course!) to involve the same mental and biological mechanisms? That's why we try where we can so envisage how the tests we devise for human test participants could also be used for non-human test participants. Sometimes we take procedures which have already been tried and tested in animals and adapt them for human beings, and sometimes we take human tests, and strip out the elements which would make them impossible for non-humans, such as test materials based on words, or the requirement for verbal responses, and design a new test for humans which we feel more confident could also be performed after additional modifications, by a non-human subject.

This is a long answer to a difficult and complex question. To ask a researcher to take the risk of trying a new procedure, when they might be able to get a answer from something which they have read about in the literature is a challenge. We think there is room for innovative procedures for testing behavior, just as there are for doing molecular biology or developing mobile phones. It's just a fundamental aspect of a vital field of science.

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What validation data do you have?

As a new group of researchers just starting out, we have very little validation data compared to established cognitive test batteries such as CANTAB, or the old paper and pencil tests.

Our first validation goal has been to ensure that our approach to designing cognitive tests is acceptable to the potential participants, and to come up with good ways to reward them for their participation. To this end, we have run three pilot studies, one using on-on-one testing in a group of inner city psychiatric patients, many of who had little experience with using computers, one in psychology undergraduates using computerized tutorials in a group setting, and a small study in tech-savvy high school students in Sweden, many of who had English as a second language. We haven't had any problems with any of these groups.

A few of the tests were also used in a 5th grade science project by Emily Evenden. The data looked pretty good, although the 5th graders were not slow to point out to their friend that the tests were rather boring! We did come up with some solutions to make them a little more interesting which we have not yet felt the need to include in the test procedures for older test takers.

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How Do I Work With WiltonLogic?

At this time WiltonLogic is interested in forming collaborative agreements with researchers interested in using the software we have designed. We recognize we are only at the start of a process of understanding the properties of these procudures and validating them, and look forward to working with partners to fulfil these requirements, and to help answer research questions which may not be amenable to currently available tools. If you are interested in this type of research partnership, please contact John Evenden at john.evenden@wiltonlogic.com or +1 610 891 7791.

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What do I need to run the software?

To run the WiltonLogic software, you need to obtain a copy from WiltonLogic. You will receive a CD-ROM from which you can install the software.

On the hardware side, you need to have a PC. We have tried the software on a range of PCs, from brand new to 5+ years old, and the speed doesn't seem to make much difference. We have used laptops and desk tops, and the software works on both. What can affect performance is the graphics driver. We strongly recommend using a computer with a graphics accelerator, and preferable one which is designed for game playing rather than optimized for showing videos or DVDs. We have found some brief pauses in displaying the graphics on computers which do not have a graphics accelerator. This doesn't stop the tests from working, but it is a bit irritating. We have also found problems on some laptops, where the graphics become significantly slowed and disconnected from the auditory feedback. We have not had problems with conventional Dell or HP computers if they are fitted with a graphics accelerator.

The software was devised to work with both either touchscreen or mouse input. We have used both. We should war you that there will be small differences in the characteristics of the tests depending on which type of input you use. In our clinical study we used a stand alone touch screen, but we did have to construct a cradle for it, tilted at about 30, as it was uncomfortable to use a vertical screen for any length of time. Here the use of modern flat screen technology offers flexibility over the old CRT monitors. We have also used HP notebook computers with an in-built touchscreen during test development, and these work just fine.

If in doubt, we can loan you a sample of the software to test out.

You will also have seen that we are in the process of migrating some of our software to a web environment. This is in early days yet, and when we learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of this approach, we'll let you know. We are also expecting that our approach will allow the tests to be used on some smartphones, but we are not there yet.

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