An exam-giving program that measures reaction times

Allan M. Stavely

Lynda Walsh

Last modified (except for formatting) April 6, 2007


Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Usage
2.1. Interaction with the subject
2.2. The script file
2.3. The output file
3. Implementation
3.1. Front matter
3.2. The exam and its components
3.2.1. The Exam class
3.2.2. The Section class
3.2.3. The Question class
3.2.4. The Answer class
3.3. Reading and parsing the script file
3.4. The output file
3.5. Elements of the display
3.5.1. Appearance parameters
3.5.2. A block of text in the display window
3.5.3. A horizontal rule
3.6. The ExamGiver window
3.7. A timer for timing user responses
3.8. The sequencer
3.9. The main program

1. Introduction

This program was designed to present stimulus for psychological experiments that take reaction and accuracy measurements of reading and judgment behaviors. These types of experiments are common in the fields of cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics, special education, technical communication, and literacy. The particular experiment for which this program was created investigated differential processing of metaphorical and literal language by participants with high-functioning autism.

The core of the program is a graphical user interface (GUI) that presents a series of short texts followed by questions. This content is provided as input to the program by a script. The program monitors the time it takes participants to read the texts and answer the questions; it prints these reaction times along with the accuracy of the answers to a results file, which may be saved and then imported into a spreadsheet or database program.

Stavely wrote the code; he and Walsh collaborated on the explanatory text. We are grateful to John Shipman for his help in reviewing this document and suggesting many valuable improvements.

The program was originally written in some haste, because it was needed right away. It might benefit from further polishing and refactoring in places.