Humans aren't enough: Providing access for simulated participants to behavioral experiment software

AbstractBehavioral studies often warrant the inclusion of computational participants in addition to humans. However, connecting computational cognitive or AI frameworks to GUI-based software developed for human use is extremely difficult. This results in researchers either (1) diving into software code to append an API for computational participants, (2) developing two separate versions of task code -- one for human and one for computational participants, (3) cherry-picking research tasks that already include both a GUI and an API, or (4) finding a way to publish the research "as is" without the potentially useful results from running simulated participants on task. The seemingly minor nuisance of the API-GUI dichotomy in today's world of software development is, in fact, responsible for reduction in scientific progress. This work proposes a functional-essence approach to software development, and the use of STAP (Simple Task-Actor Protocol) as a standard UI interaction language, for overcoming the API-GUI dichotomy and enabling access to the same software for both human and computational participants. We envision the adaptation of the proposed methodology to enable selection of off-the-shelf behavioral tasks, decorative templates, and cognitive/AI frameworks for a more efficient path to research results.

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