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Earning Money from Student Experiments

In these last 2 weeks, my weekdays were quite busy in participating other people’ experiments on campus (instead of working on my own project, HAHA!). The experiments are usually conducted by the students from the Psychology department, Computer Science department, and Medical school, and they often need a lot of participants to take part. The time is varied between 30 minutes to 2.5 hours, and in return, they give a reward. Most of them provide study credit as the reward, usually for the other Psychology students so they can swap participation in each other’s research; several studies offer a chance to win a specific amount of money or Amazon gift card, and others give the participants cash directly sponsored by their supervisors or school.

Of course, I am interested to join the studies that offer cash straightaway. It is easy money, no commitment and skills needed, and mostly not too difficult to do. They give a reasonable amount of money depending on the times spent. For example, study A offered £5 for 1 hour meanwhile study B also gave £5 but for 30 minutes, then study C got £10 for 1 hour 15 minutes, and study D had £20 for 2 hours. In average it’s about £7-8 per hour. As a comparison, the National Minimum Wage in the UK is £7.7 (age 21 to 24) and £8.21 (age 25 and over) hourly. This is not a usual part time job that we have to work in the exact precise duration to earn the money. If I finished the experiment faster than the allocated duration, I could still get the same amount of money.

The experimenters usually put up the advertisements in strategic places around campus such as library and bus stops, with their email (and sometimes phone number). I then emailed them to manually ask their available slots that suit my schedule. The other way to find and book the studies is through a system called Sona. There I can see the available studies and their timeslots, and book a slot automatically. Each study has its own requirement and eligibility, for example, one study has to be a woman in a range of age, another one requires native speaker, and other studies need to have a clear normal vision. However, most of them are open for non-Sussex students as well. Like my husband, he took part in many studies like this while he was staying here with us for about 3.5 months. In fact, I got to know about the Sona system from him. I only had time to start taking part in these studies in the end of May when all the classes finished and the assessments were almost over. During this time, some master students are doing projects for their dissertation, while many undergraduate (and master) students go for holiday, so more opportunities to get available slots.

Sample of experiment advertisement

The tasks can be as easy as watching some interview videos and then rate whether the interview questions good or bad, and can be too much repetitive making my head a little bit dizzy. Another task can be very enjoyable: define some kind of yellow color, then watch a movie for 1.5 hours, then choose the yellow color again. Watching a movie and receive £15? We need more experiment like this, please! Some studies can be very cool, using Virtual Reality (VR) and a built-in machine that can make a droplet levitate (which I suggested the researcher name the machine to Leviosa). There was one experiment measuring body composition, and I got to receive the full report for free (it’s said, even though my real age is 33, but my body age is 27, woohoo!). Meanwhile, experiments that involve taste sensory usually require us to not eat and drink other than water a few hours before. Heart measurement studies (such as worry and panic) also need to not consume coffee 2 hours before because it will affect the heart rate.

The scariest experiment I had was scanning the brain inside an fMRI machine while pushing a button when a color changes. Although I had read the instructions beforehand, and already stated that there was no any metal things on my body (inside and outside) at that time, the radiology staff asked and made sure again, because she said the machine was very powerful. At that point, I started to panic and my mind was like: “oh no, I had Caesar surgery before, but I’m sure there was nothing planted inside my body during that, wasn’t it, oh shit.” I am not claustrophobic, but being inside the machine for about 1 hour did give me a little bit of headache and rapid heartbeats. I almost gave up but the team kindly encouraged me so I could finish it. In the end, it’s kinda worth it, because I received £21 and donated the same amount to UNICEF.

Since the time is really precious (especially for a Mummy like me who gets only 6 hours free from the kid when she goes to school, and 9-10 hours free when she goes to sleep but at that time I will be sleepy too), the trick here is how to finish the task as soon as possible but still taking the study seriously. If I was the researcher, I definitely wanted my collected data to be as accurate as possible. So far I have participated in 14 studies (around 14 hours) and earned £118, and I still get other 4 bookings coming up. Even though I found some other interesting ones recently, I think I will stop here and focus more on my own research. I have a very limited time because there is a child to take care, sometimes the available slots do not fit my schedule at all. However, I highly recommend these experiments for single students out there to get some extra cash easily.

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