CogSci Workshop: “Using Mechanical Turk and PsiTurk for Dynamic Web Experiments”

Our CogSci workshop, “Using Mechanical Turk and PsiTurk for Dynamic Web Experiments” will be held on Wednesday July 31st at 2pm, in Room 5 (Dorotheenstraase 24-26, Lecture Hall 207).

If you are planning to drop by, you might want to take a couple of minutes to go over the following:

Accounts on Mechanical Turk

Please sign up ahead of the workshop for a AMT Worker account.
You’ll get the most out of the workshop if you also sign up for an AMT Requester account. Please do this ASAP as it may take 24 hours for an account to be activated. Note, if you are not living in the US or have access to a US credit card, you will not be able to sign up for a requester account. In that case, just try to get a worker account for now.

Bring a laptop

It will greatly enhance your experience to be able to follow along on your computer.

No Windows support

Note that currently the PsiTurk software is only available for Mac and Linux computers. Unfortunately it isn’t available for Windows, and likely never will be due to the constraints of running servers on Windows. What we suggest for Windows users is to use cloud services, such as Amazon’s EC2. We do plan to support running PsiTurk on OpenShift, which will make it easy to start up a server in the cloud no matter what platform you use.


To participate, it will help to install the PsiTurk toolbox before the workshop. Instructions are as follows:

  1. PsiTurk relies on Python. For a kitchen-sink-included solution that works on all platforms, we recommend that you download the Enthought Python distribution available here. However, if your computer already has Python >=2.6 installed that may work fine..
  2. Mac users: you also need to install a C compiler via XCode. To do so, follow the instructions listed here here (h/t Chris Street).
  3. The easiest way to install PsiTurk is via pip. If you don’t already have pip, either install it with your package manager (if you know what that is) or by typing the following in a terminal:

    Once pip is installed, type into a terminal:

    If you get a permissions error, try the following

Getting help

We have a google group which you can use to post any questions regarding PsiTurk, the installation process, etc. If you are having trouble with the installation, by all means try to let us know before the workshop so we can try to address the problem. We would appreciate it if you could use this group mainly for PsiTurk questions, not for queries regarding programming in JavaScript, debugging your code, etc. There are better resources available for those questions (try for example).

 Check out some resources

If you already want to start learning about web development, gentle introductions to web development are available on Codecademy (lesson collections for HTML/CSS are available here and for Javascript are available here).  We especially recommend these if your programming experience is limited. You do not have to look at these before the workshop, but it will help you understand what you will eventually need to know to run your experiments online.

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday!

  1. I don’t know if anyone else is getting the same issue on clicking the link at Step 2, but I get at 404 error.

    Go to and on the right-hand side under the advert is a small google custom search bar. Type “gcc compiler” and you’ll get a result titled “Mac OS X: Install GCC Compiler with Xcode”:

    Chris Street
  2. Thanks Chris! We changed it to use that link.

    John McDonnell
  3. Sorry to hear that this will be mac based, and that it’s also going to be harder for non-US citizens. I’m afraid that as I’m travelling today I won’t get a chance to do any of this (leaving in 10 mins), so I may not attend the workshop after all – apologies!


    James Hampton
  4. We’re working hard to make a cloud-based version of psiTurk that will be OS independent. Hopefully, it’ll be out by the end of summer, if not sooner.

    Jay Martin
  5. Hi James,
    The US citizen aspect is due to restrictions placed by Amazon unfortunately. Part of the workshop will discuss ways of getting around this (e.g., Also, my understanding is that the Windows issue is simply because it is difficult to run server processes locally on Windows computers. However, the workshop will cover how to run the software on a remote server (that e.g., runs Linux) which is often preferable anyway since you want the software accessible to potential subjects at all times.

    These statement come with no guarantee you’ll get everything you hoped out of the workshop, but it should not be useless if you are a European Windows user.


    Todd Gureckis
  6. To be claer, it’s not strictly US citizens. “Requesters must provide a U.S. ACH-enabled bank account and a U.S. billing address in order to submit a request for tasks to be completed through the Amazon Mechanical Turk web site.”

    So there is no trouble for Europeans with US bank accounts and a mailing address, I know that’s a high bar but a lot lower than citizenship.

    John McDonnell
  7. I am not an American, so obviously not permitted to get a requester account. I applied for the worker account and got denied:

    “We have completed our review of your Amazon Mechanical Turk Worker Account. We regret to inform you that you will not be permitted to work on Mechanical Turk.

    Our account review criteria are proprietary and we cannot disclose the reason why an invitation to complete registration has been denied. If our criteria for invitation changes, you may be invited to complete registration in the future.”

    Anyone an idea why? Am I still able to get anything out of the workshop? I have a windows PC, so no PsyTurk for me either.

    Timo Röttger