Shapesplosion is an on-line game in which a person is expected to place specifically shaped pegs into the appropriate holes within a short time period.


In Class Use

The Student and Instructor Hypothesis Test Handout show how this game can be used to demonstrate hypothesis testing. This activity is designed to build upon students' knowledge of t-tests through a fun application that emphasizes the differences between 2-sample t-tests or paired t-tests. It also provides a practical example that where students have the opportunity to design and analyze an experiment. They will:


  • Formulate a hypothesis test about time it takes to match 15 pegs
  • Determine how to collect data that best addresses their research question.
  • Collect data
  • Check model assumptions
  • Analyze the data
  • Draw conclusions within the context of their study


The following link allows you to play the Shapesplosion Game. We suggest you watch the video and open the game instructions before playing the game.


All data from the game is available at Shapesplosion Data.


A data visualizations app allows you to view all Shapesplosion data: Shapesplosion Data Visualizations.


The Game Instructions list other research opportunities for students. For example :

  • In the first day of class, use the game and shiny app to create multidimensional visualizations. How does the number of pegs influence the effect of matching scheme?
  • Use this game to demonstrate the differences between paired and two-sample t-tests.
  • Conduct a regression analysis on the number of moves a student makes verses the completion time.
  • Conduct a chi-square tests or two proportion test to compare the probability of completing the game with a 30 second time limit.
  • Let the students choose which factors to test and conduct an ANOVA.



Game Based Research Projects:

The Student and Instructor Project 1 Handouts show how students can use the Shapesplosion game to design, conduct, and communicate psychological experiments, including generating and analyzing their own data. For background and context, the class reads and discusses a published paper on a relevant psychological experiment. Then students generate, discuss, and execute a common experimental design or separate designs. Students communicate their work and findings in a final paper or poster.


Things to consider for research projects:

  • Computer lab space is needed to conduct the experiment, which can be done inside or outside of the regularly scheduled class time.
  • In any experiment involving humans, Institutional Review Board approval should be received from your institution. It may be best to receive a general approval for all Shapesplosion experiments in your course. Even if you do receive general approval, it may be appropriate for the students to prepare an IRB proposal as a class assignment, even if it is not sent to the board.
  • If your institution does not have an Institutional Review Board, you can find more information on registration as well as educational materials at
  • The article by Stroop, ”Studies of Interference in Serial Verbal Reactions”, Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18,643-662, can be found on-line at or other library resource for your class such as
  • Assign each student (or group of students) one student ID and decide before class what course ID you plan on using. Any alphanumeric code without spaces is acceptable. However, human responses should be confidential and actual names should not be used as student IDs. You may want to search the database to determine if a course ID has already been used.
  • If you want students to find their own research papers on reaction time tests, PsycINFO is a good psychology resource.
  • Other materials may be needed depending upon student design.


Project Goals:

  1. Experience statistics as it is practiced by researchers in psychology:
    • Collect data appropriate to a specified purpose, and recognize limitations in existing data.
    • Explain the benefits of the statistical approach to design of experiments and use it.
    • Analyze data using appropriate graphs and numerical tools (primarily ANOVA).
    • Derive appropriate, actionable conclusions from data analysis.
    • Present results and conclusions in both technical and non-technical terms, in writing and orally.
  2. Develop a systematic model for development of an experimental design:
    • Describe the role of statistical thinking and methods for problem solving.
    • Discuss the value of understanding, quantifying, and reducing variation.
    • Develop an understanding of how statistics is integral to research in cognitive psychology.
    • Determine the appropriate questions statistical consultants should ask.
    • Develop the ability to read scientific literature.



Thanks to Grinnell MAP students Priyanka Dangol, Reina Shahi, Ryuta Kure, Betsy Lorton, Sarah Marcum, Arunabh Singh, Andrew Applebaum, Alex Cohn, Nathan Levin, Jeffrey Thompson for creating, editing and maintaining the on-line game.