Running an Experiment¶
This guide will describe the basic steps for running an MWorks experiment. It will make use of a simple example that is distributed with MWorks.
Launching the Applications¶
To run an MWorks experiment, you use two applications:
- MWClient is used to control and monitor the experiment, while
- MWServer handles the actual execution of the experiment.
In the simplest case, both applications run on the same computer. However, they can also run on different computers and communicate via TCP/IP networking.
In this guide, we assume that both MWServer and MWClient are running on the same macOS system.
To launch MWServer, navigate to the system-level Applications folder, and double click the yellow monkey icon. After the application launches, click the Preferences button. In the preferences window that opens, navigate to the Network tab, and confirm the following settings:
- Listening address: localhost
- Listening port: 19989
If you need to edit either setting, quit and re-open MWServer after making your changes.
To launch MWClient, navigate to the system-level Applications folder, and double click the red monkey icon. After the application launches, click the red circle with the white X next to the words “No connection”.
In the panel that opens, you must enter the network address and port for MWServer. Enter or verify the following values:
- Address: localhost
- Port: 19989
Next, click the Connect button. The red circle with an X should change in to a green circle with a white check mark, and “No connection” should be replaced with the name of the MWServer instance.
MWClient is now connected to MWServer and is ready to load and run an experiment.
Loading the Experiment¶
To load and run an experiment, you must use the MWClient application. Click the icon containing a blue folder and green beaker, next to the words “No Experiment Loaded”. In the panel that opens, next to the words “Choose a New Experiment”, click the Choose button. A file selection window will appear.
In the file selection window, select the system’s boot disk (e.g. Macintosh HD), and navigate to the directory
/Library/Application Support/MWorks/Examples/FindTheCircle. Select the file
FindTheCircle.mwel, and click Open. The start button (green circle with right-pointing triangle) should now be enabled, and “No Experiment Loaded” should be replaced by just “Experiment”. Also, an empty, gray stimulus display should open (either fullscreen or in a window, depending on your configuration).
Opening the Event File¶
The event file is a record of everything that happens in an MWorks experiment, as reported by changes to variable values. By default, MWClient will automatically open an event file when the experiment starts running. If you have disabled this behavior (via MWClient’s preferences window), or if you want to choose the file’s name yourself, you can use MWClient to manually open the event file.
Click the icon depicting a downward-facing arrow and a hard drive, next to the words “Not streaming to disk…” In the text entry box beneath the words “Begin streaming data to file”, enter a name for the event file. (The extension
.mwk will be added to the name you enter.) Then, click the Stream button. The event file is now open, and all subsequent events generated by the experiment will be recorded to it for later analysis.
The event file will close automatically when you close the experiment. Alternatively, you can close the event file manually at any time. To do so, click the arrow+disk icon again, then click the Close Stream button.
Running the Experiment¶
To start the experiment, use MWClient. Click the start button (green circle with right-pointing triangle), which should immediately change into a stop button (red octagon). The mouse cursor will jump to the stimulus display, which should now contain three squares (red, green, and blue).
In this “experiment”, a white circle is hidden under a random square, and the goal for the subject is to find it. To make a guess, move the mouse cursor over the selected square. Once a choice is made, the squares will disappear, revealing the location of the circle, and a feedback sound will play: a pleasant chime if your guess was correct, an error tone otherwise. After a short delay, the mouse cursor will return to its initial position, the three squares will reappear, and the selection process repeats, with the circle in a new random location. If you fail to make a selection within five seconds of the squares appearing, a timeout sound will play, and the next trial will begin (without revealing the circle’s location).
The experiment will run for ten trials, after which it will automatically stop. The stop button should turn back into a start button, and the stimulus display should once again be empty. To run the experiment again, click the start button.
Monitoring the Experiment¶
In this guide, you have been playing the roles of both experimenter and experimental subject. Normally, of course, this would not be the case. Instead, the subject would be another person or animal, and you (the experimenter) would be monitoring their progress.
MWorks provides a number of tools for observing (and potentially altering) the course of an experiment. Of these, the most basic and essential are the console and the variables window.
All messages (informational, warning, and error) produced by an MWorks experiment are logged to the console. This includes both system messages and messages generated by the experiment itself via the report action.
Both MWServer and MWClient provide access to the console. To open the console window in MWServer, click the Console button. To have the console window open automatically when MWServer launches, click the Preferences button, select the General tab, and check the box next to “Open console window at startup”.
To open the console window in MWClient, click the magnifying glass icon. In the menu that pops up, select “Console (localhost)”.
Click the console window’s Clear button, and run the example experiment again. When the experiment completes, the console should display messages similar to the following:
01:43:52: Setting protocol to Find the Circle 01:43:52: Running MWorks 0.8 01:43:52: Current date/time is Mon Jan 29 14:33:29 EST 2018 01:43:52: Called start on state system 01:43:52: Starting state system.... 01:43:53: Display updates started (refresh rate: 60 Hz) 01:44:32: 4 of 10 trials were correct (6272418691) 01:44:32: 5 of 10 trials were incorrect (6272418720) 01:44:32: 1 of 10 trials were ignored (6272418783) 01:44:32: Display updates stopped 01:44:32: State system ending 01:44:32: Resetting experiment
(In addition to appearing in the console, all messages are recorded in the event file via the
#announceMessage system variable.)
Variables are a fundamental element of all MWorks experiments. An experiment’s state at any moment is described by the values of its variables. By changing the values of key variables, you can alter the course of your experiment’s execution.
The simplest way to examine or alter the values of an experiment’s variables is via MWClient’s variables window. To open the variables window, click the magnifying glass icon. In the menu that pops up, select “Variables (localhost)”.
The variables window organizes variables in to expandable groups. Experiment-defined variables (i.e. anything that is not a system variable) are in a group labeled
# EXPERIMENT VARIABLES. To display the variables and their values, click the disclosure triangle next to the label.
With the experiment variables visible, try running the example experiment again. You should see
pointer_y change as you move the mouse pointer,
num_trials increase as trials are completed, and so on.
Next, suppose you want to make the experimental task easier (in this case, a lot easier). In the variables window, find the row for the variable
circle_size. (If you have trouble finding it, start typing the variable name in the search box at the bottom of the window, and it will quickly become the only variable visible.) Double click the variable’s value (2), and replace it with a larger value (7). If you now re-run the experiment, you should have no trouble finding the circle on every trial.
Closing the Experiment¶
To close the experiment, use MWClient. Click the icon containing a blue folder and green beaker. In the panel that opens, click Close Experiment. The stimulus display should disappear, and the text next to the folder+beaker icon should once again read “No Experiment Loaded”. If an event file was open, it will now be closed.
The experiment is now closed (i.e. unloaded). At this point, you can load another experiment, or, if your session is complete, you can quit the MWClient and MWServer applications.