LINGUIST List 32.45

Tue Jan 05 2021

Software: New Toolkit for Psycholinguistic Experiments using Instant Messaging

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 22-Dec-2020
From: Gregory Mills <>
Subject: New Toolkit for Psycholinguistic Experiments using Instant Messaging
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Dear colleagues,

We have just released a toolkit for running controlled psycholinguistic experiments using instant messaging.

The toolkit runs as a bot on the Telegram network. Participants connect to the toolkit using the Telegram app on their mobile phones. Since all messages between participants are mediated via the toolkit, data is instantly available for analysis - there is no need for participants to send in their data. The toolkit allows high levels of experimental control: participants can be dynamically assigned to different groups, and experimental instructions (e.g. images, texts, questionnaires) can be sent automatically by the toolkit to the participants in their chat window.

The toolkit also supports fine-grained manipulations of the content and timing of participant’s turns. For example, experimental interventions can be scripted that automatically substitute key words and phrases in participants´ turns. Interventions can also be scripted that insert “spoof” turns into the dialogue. These spoof turns appear to participants as originating from each other, while they have in fact been created and sent by the server. These techniques allow the direct testing of hypotheses about how participants will respond to specific types of prompts at different moments in the interaction.

In addition to Telegram-based chat, the toolkit provides customizable chat interfaces that run on participants’ PCs (Windows, Apple, Linux). Among other features these interfaces can be set to display each character as it is typed, for investigating incremental language processing in dialogue.

The toolkit is open-source and is downloadable at:


Gregory Mills

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science
                            Computational Linguistics
                            Discourse Analysis
                            Linguistic Theories
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

Page Updated: 05-Jan-2021