Thinkering through Experiments: Nurturing Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Design of Testing Tools

Kathryn B. Francis, Agi Haines, Raluca A. Briazu


In order to assess and understand human behavior, traditional approaches to experimental design incorporate testing tools that are often artificial and devoid of corporeal features. Whilst these offer experimental control in situations in which, methodologically, real behaviors cannot be examined, there is increasing evidence that responses given in these contextually deprived experiments fail to trigger genuine responses. This may result from a lack of consideration regarding the material makeup and associations connected with the fabric of experimental tools. In a twoyear collaboration, we began to experiment with the physicality of testing tools using the domain of moral psychology as a case study. This collaboration involved thinkering and prototyping methods that included direct contact and consideration of the materials involved in experimentation. Having explored the embodied nature of morality, we combined approaches from experimental psychology, moral philosophy, design thinking, and computer science to create a new testing tool for simulated moral behavior. Although the testing tool itself generated fruitful results, this paper considers the collaborative methodology through which it was produced as a route to highlight material questions within psychological research.


collaboration; embodiment; methodology; moral psychology; prototyping; thinkering

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