Evaluating the Effects of a Programming Error on a Virtual Environment Measure of Spatial Navigation Behavior

Steven M. Weisberg, Victor R. Schinazi, Andrea Ferrario, Nora S. Newcombe

Research output: Other contributionDiscipline Preprint RepositoryResearch


Relying on shared tasks and stimuli to conduct research can enhance the replicability of findings and allow a community of researchers to collect large data sets across multiple experiments. This approach is particularly relevant for experiments in spatial navigation, which often require the development of unfamiliar large-scale virtual environments to test participants. One challenge with shared platforms is that undetected technical errors, rather than being restricted to individual studies, become pervasive across many studies. Here, we discuss the discovery of a programming error (a bug) in a virtual environment platform used to investigate individual differences in spatial navigation: Virtual Silcton. The bug resulted in storing the absolute value of an angle in a pointing task rather than the signed angle. This bug was difficult to detect for several reasons, and it rendered the original sign of the angle unrecoverable. To assess the impact of the error on published findings, we collected a new data set for comparison. Our results revealed that the effect of the error on published data is likely to be minimal, partially explaining the difficulty in detecting the bug over the years. We also used the new data set to develop a tool that allows researchers who have previously used Virtual Silcton to evaluate the impact of the bug on their findings. We summarize the ways that shared open materials, shared data, and collaboration can pave the way for better science to prevent errors in the future.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherPsyArXiv Preprints
Number of pages38
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2021


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