Exploring Citizen Psych-Science and the Motivations of Errordiary Volunteers

Charlene Jennett, Dominic J. Furniss, Ioanna Iacovides, Sarah Wiseman, Sandy J. J. Gould, Anna L. Cox


Previous research investigating motivations in citizen science have focused mostly on environmental citizen science projects. In this paper we focus specifically on citizen psychology projects, which we term 'citizen psych-science'. We argue that citizen psych-science differs from typical citizen science projects because volunteers are asked to contribute personal data. Furthermore we argue that the personal nature of such contributions can have unanticipated consequences on volunteer's motivations to contribute and their experiences of participating in the project. Exploring these issues in more detail, we describe four research studies that we conducted with Errordiary, a citizen psych-science project where volunteers tweet about their everyday experiences of human error. These studies included: (1) an interview study to explore motivations of 8 Errordiary volunteers, and (2) one workshop and two focus groups, to explore the potential of attracting new communities to the project. One of our main findings is that the risks associated with sharing errors on Errordiary, such as negative perceptions from others, being viewed as incompetent at your workplace, may counteract a person’s general good will to help researchers. We suggest several ways that researchers can help citizen psych-science volunteers feel like they are in a safe space to contribute their experiences towards research. These include clearly communicating the purpose of their research, allowing the use of pseudonyms, explaining how data is protected, and ensuring that proper monitoring controls are in place.


Citizen science, Psychology, Motivation, Human Error

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15346/hc.v1i2.10


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