Participation in Experiments

The Rights and Responsibilities of Students Participating as Subjects

A thorough appreciation of the nature of psychology requires first-hand experience in psychological research. Students enrolled in most undergraduate courses in Psychological Sciences are therefore expected to participate in psychology experiments, although there are alternative ways of meeting this requirement for those not wishing to participate (e.g., writing research papers). As a participant, you should be familiar with your rights and responsibilities.

Note: As of August 2019, Rice has just switched from the Experimetrix System to the SONA system for managing these studies. Detailed information on registering and using the system can be found here.


1. Sign Up. You must sign up for experiments ahead of time by way of SONA (

2. Show Up On Time. Cancellations need to be made at least 24 hours prior to the appointment. Failure to show may adversely impact your ability to use SONA to fulfill your course research participations requirements.

3. Perform Conscientiously. The results of the experiments are very important to the researchers and potentially to the field of psychology as a whole.

4. Keep A Record Of Your Credit Hours. SONA will keep a record of your experiments and credits, but you may also want to keep you own independent record. Click here for a Record of Experiment Participation sheet, where you can keep a personal record of all your credit hours. Each experiment must be signed by the experimenter directly following each experiment. If an experimenter fails to credit your online account, this assures that you will still receive credit.

5. Check Your Credit. You can see how much credit you have been awarded by logging into SONA. Earned credits, pending credits, and required credits will be shown on the main page. Should you discover a discrepancy between these figures and those on your experiment credit sheet, please contact the Department Research Coordinator, Dr. Philip Kortum (

6. ASSIGN YOUR CREDIT TO SPECIFIC COURSES. To do this, login to SONA, and click the “My Schedule/Credits” link at the top of the page. Credits will be automatically assigned to a course when they are awarded, but you can change those assignments by clicking the blue “Reassign” button.


Occasionally, an individual may feel that he or she has been mistreated by the experimenter. This is rare, but it has been known to happen. Before participating in an experiment, you may be asked to consent in writing. You have the right to leave an experiment at any time. Of course, if you do not complete the experiment you will not receive experiment credit, but you will not be penalized. If something happens to you that you feel is unethical, please discuss the problem with the experimenter or, at your discretion, report it to Psychological Sciences Research Coordinator (Dr. Philip Kortum, ext. 4813 or or the Department Chair (Dr. Margaret Beier, ext. 3920 or, and/or to an IRB Compliance Administrator (ext 3586 or All experiments have been approved by the Psychological Sciences Department's Research Coordinator and by Rice University's Institutional Review Board. For the occasional experiment in which there is more than minimal risk, the risk will be fully described by the experimenter. If you do not accept the risk, you are, of course, entitled to leave the experiment without penalty.

Participation is an important educational experience. Following participation in each experiment a description of its purpose will be given. This will occur either immediately or else by email later in the semester. The purpose of the description is to make participation a more meaningful experience, to allow the students to appreciate the "inner workings" of psychology experiments. Participants are strongly encouraged to ask questions and to relate the experiment to the course content through discussion with the experimenters, TAs, or course instructors.