Psychology Study Pool

Psychology Department, Harvard University


Welcome to the Psychology Study Pool at Harvard University. This Web site provides information for anyone interested in participating in psychology research studies at Harvard and for Harvard researchers who run those studies.

One important way to learn about psychology is from the inside - by being a participant in psychological studies. You can learn about how studies are done, why they take certain approaches, what they find, and what it is like to be the person being studied. By serving as a participant in psychological research, you also contribute to advancing the scientific understanding of human thought and behavior.

Most of our studies take place on the Harvard University campus in Cambridge but some online studies may also available.


What is the Study Pool?

The Psychology Department at Harvard University administers the Study Pool, a Web site where people can sign up to participate in research studies run by members of the department. The Study Pool serves both to introduce students and people in the community to the process of psychological research and to provide members of the department with participants for their research studies.

We welcome students, Harvard affiliates, and members of the community to participate in our studies by creating a Study Pool account and then signing up for studies. Anyone may participate in studies for compensation throughout the year. Each semester, students enrolled in specific Psychology courses may be asked to participate in studies for credit. However, participation is completely voluntary and alternative assignments are also available.

Many studies have specific requirements for participants, but here are a few basic requirements:

  • You must be at least 18 years of age to participate in most studies. If you are under 18, you may participate only in studies designated for people under 18 after you have submitted a signed Parental Permission Form to the Study Pool Coordinator.
  • For most studies, you need to be fluent in English.
  • Many studies are conducted with computers, so familiarity using computers may be necessary.
  • You should not have a lot of experience with psychology research.

All studies have been approved by Harvard University’s Committee on the Use of Human Subjects. In addition, the Study Pool Security Policy requires that you receive a numeric Identity code when you create a Study Pool account so your responses in these studies will be confidential.

Faculty in the Department of Psychology at Harvard, graduate students, undergraduate thesis writers, and Board of Honors Tutors (specifically for student projects) interested in using the Study Pool for their research should contact the Study Pool Coordinator.

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What Happens in a Study?

Studies may be designed to examine topics such as decision making, memory skills, and emotional, visual, and cognitive processes. When you participate in a study, you may complete the study alone or you may be asked to participate with other people. Most studies take between 30 minutes and two hours to complete.

Before each study begins, a researcher explains what you will be asked to do and gives you a chance to ask questions. Every participant will be asked to sign a Consent Form (Sample Consent Form), but participation is voluntary, and you may decide at any time to stop taking part in a study. You will still receive partial credit or payment for your time spent on the study. If you are participating in an online study, you will be presented with a brief description of the study and asked for your consent to participate.

Different studies involve different types of activities, for example:

  • Filling out questionnaires
  • Viewing videos
  • Playing games
  • Participating in interviews
  • Completing different tasks on a computer

Some studies use direct sensors (e.g., a heart rate monitor) or remote sensors (e.g., a video-camera) to measure your physiological and psychological reactions to the study situation.

When you complete a study, you will receive a Debriefing document. The Debriefing includes a summary of the study, the hypotheses, a brief description of the measures used, and a reference for further reading on the topic. The Debriefing also tells you how to contact the researchers if you have questions about the study or would like a summary report on the research if and when it is published.

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Study Pool Rules for Participants

The Study Pool operates under the assumption that participants and researchers can engage in cooperative interactions that contribute to our research goals. We expect participants to be cooperative, to focus on the research tasks, and make their best effort when participating in our studies.

We ask you to follow a few rules to help us with our research.

  • Create and use only ONE Study Pool account.
  • Use your real name when you create your account.
  • Provide accurate information on the pre-screening survey.
  • Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements listed in the study description BEFORE you sign up for a study.
  • Please do not sign up for more than 15 studies during a semester. This limit helps to preserve the quality of research data by allowing more people to participate in our studies.

During a study session, you may not engage in the following activities unless instructed to do so by the researcher:

  • Use a cell phone, listen to music, or use any other electronic device.
  • Eat or drink anything.
  • Do homework, e-mail, or other activities outside the realm of the instructions given by the researcher.

If you do not follow the researcher's instructions during a study, you may be excused at any time from the study at the discretion of the researcher and your compensation may be pro-rated. The researcher may also report you to the Study Pool Coordinator for uncooperative behavior.

If you do not follow these rules and your Study Pool account is deactivated by the Study Pool Coordinator, you will not be eligible to participate in any more studies.

Difficult or Potentially Dangerous Participants

People who behave in an uncooperative, belligerent, or threatening manner to researchers, administrative staff, or other participants will not be allowed to participate in a study. This includes people who appear to be mentally or physically unstable or seem to be at risk of harming themselves or those around them.

If a researcher encounters someone behaving in this manner, the researcher is instructed to call the Harvard University Police (1-617-495-1212) or 911 immediately for assistance and to report the incident to the Study Pool Coordinator.

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Late Arrival / No-Show Policy

Let the researcher know if you are running late!

If you are more than 10 minutes late, the researcher is under no obligation to run the study or give you credit or payment, and you will be given an Unexcused No-Show.

Note: Allow extra time for travel in case of traffic, weather, or unusual circumstances. The elevators in William James Hall are frequently in use during the semester, so it may take you several minutes to get to your study appointment.

If you cannot keep a study appointment, cancel it 24 hours before the scheduled time!

  • You can log into your Study Pool account to cancel most study appointments 24 hours before your appointment time.
  • If it is less than 24 hours before your appointment, contact the researchers by e-mail or phone to cancel. The contact information for researchers is listed in the study description and in your study confirmation e-mail. The researcher may give you an Unexcused No-Show and will decide whether or not to reschedule.
  • If you are late or miss a study appointment without contacting the researcher, you will be given an Unexcused No Show.
  • If you have more than 3 unexcused no-shows, your Study Pool account may be deactivated and you will not be allowed to sign up for any more studies.

If the researcher is late or misses an appointment, send e-mail to the Study Pool Coordinator. You are entitled to payment or credit for that session. Please send e-mail to the researcher to receive payment or credit and a copy of the Debriefing. You can find contact information for researchers online with the study descriptions.

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Compensation (Payment and Credits)

Study Pool Credits: If you are a Harvard student enrolled in a participating Psychology course, you may participate in studies to earn Study Pool credits that count towards your grade. Let your instructor know if you do not want to participate in psychology studies so you can complete the alternative assignment.

After you complete your Study Pool credits, you may also participate in studies for payment.

Payment for Studies:

  • Payment is $5 or more per half hour for most studies conducted on campus.
  • Researchers may pay participants either by cash, gift card, or Harvard University check.

Note: When payment is made by a University check, it takes Harvard 3-4 weeks to process and send out the checks after the researcher submits the paperwork. Please be patient and contact the researcher if you have questions about your payment.

  • All participants may be paid in cash or gift card up to $100 per study session.
  • Payments over $100 for study participation must be made by University check.
  • Foreign Nationals (non US Citizens without green cards) must apply for approval BEFORE participating in any study that pays participants by CHECK. For more information, see Payment Information for Foreign Nationals.

Participating in studies for compensation does not make you an employee of the Harvard Psychology Department or Harvard University.

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Personal Information Required for Payment

When you are a paid participate in a study, the researcher will ask you to fill out a Subject Payment Form (.doc) for each session.

  • CASH payments: You are required to print your legal name (which must also be the name on your Study Pool account) and sign your name on the payment form.
  • Payment by CHECK *: In some cases researchers pay participant by University checks. To be paid by check, you need to provide the following information:
    • Harvard ID (for Harvard Employees only)
    • Permanent address
    • Mailing address
  • Foreign Nationals and payment by Check: In order to be paid by CHECK, Foreign Nationals must complete additional paperwork and submit documentation to show that they are eligible to receive payment in the United States. For more details, please see the Payment Information for Foreign Nationals.

* We are required to collect this information from study participants in order to comply with Internal Revenue Service regulations, U.S. tax laws, and to verify your eligibility to receive payment in the United States.

Protection of Your Personal Information

The procedure for safe-guarding your personal information is carefully reviewed by the Committee on the Use of Human Subjects at Harvard. Personal information and data collected during a study must be kept in locked/secure areas to assure confidentiality and protection from identity theft. Social Security Numbers cannot be collected online for an online study unless it has been predetermined that the Web site and server are secure.

If you would like to verify the authenticity of an online study that is being advertised by Harvard researchers, you may:

  • Create an account and log into our Study site at to see the list of available studies.
  • Visit the Psychology Department Web site at to see the names of the faculty, research associates, and postdoctoral fellows who currently conduct research in this department.
  • Check the list of Psychology Labs to learn more about their research.

If you have further concerns, you can contact the Psychology Study Pool Coordinator at or 617-495-3891 to validate the affiliation of a particular study with this department.

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Payment Information for Foreign Nationals (non US Citizens)

Foreign Nationals are individuals who are not US citizens or permanent residents.

If you are a foreign national:

  • If you are a Harvard student, you may participate in psychology studies to earn required Study Pool credits for a course.
  • You may participate in psychology studies for payments in cash or gift cards up to $100 per session.
  • If you want to participate in any study that pays participants by University check, you need to meet these requirements to get approval for payment:
    • You must be affiliated with Harvard University.
    • "Harvard University" must be the sponsoring institution on your United States visa or the annotation on the I-20 Form.

You need to apply for approval through the Study Pool Coordinator BEFORE you sign up for studies that pay by check.

Approval Process *

  1. Complete the FNIF (Foreign National Information Form) (PDF)
  2. Make an appointment with the Study Pool Coordinator.
  3. Bring the following original documents to the Study Pool Coordinator in 228 William James Hall:
    • Your passport
    • I-94 Departure Information ( white card inside your passport)
    • U.S. Visa from your passport
    • I-20, DS2019, IAP66 or I797 (immigration documents)
    • Your Harvard ID

The Study Pool Coordinator will make copies of these documents, submit this paperwork to the University Tax Office, and will let you know when the approval is completed. Approval may take a week or more.

* We are required to collect this information from study participants in order to comply with Internal Revenue Service regulations, U.S. tax laws, and to verify your eligibility to receive payment in the United States.

Please note that when Foreign Nationals are paid by check for participation in any study, regardless of the amount, they may be taxed (up to 30%) of their earnings depending on the regulations and policies issued by the Harvard Tax Office in conjunction with their home country taxation laws.

Participating in studies for compensation does not make you an employee of the Harvard Psychology Department or Harvard University.

For Studies Outside the United States

Foreign Nationals located outside the United States may participate in online studies conducted by researchers in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.

However, researchers must get the following information from Foreign Nationals BEFORE paying them, and payments should not exceed $100. Researchers may include this information in the online consent form or ask participants to mail or fax this statement to them.

Location Statement

I will participate in a confidential study from _______________ (date) to __________ (date) while located in the following country: ___________________________.

Participant's Name (printed): _________________________

Participant;s E-mail address: ___________________________________

Date: _______________________

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Study Pool Forms for Participants

Forms for Participants

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Harvard Psychology Labs

If you would like to learn more about the research conducted in the Harvard Psychology Department, click the links below to read about the faculty members and their labs.



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Harvard University Home | Psychology Department Home

Psychology Study Pool at Harvard University
228 William James Hall
33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Info: 617.495.3891

Contact the Study Pool Coordinator


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