McDaniel Professor uses Twitter to Conduct Philosophical Research

Stuart Fischer

Staff Reporter

Ever wonder what other people are thinking? Thanks to Dr. Peter Bradley, associate professor of philosophy at McDaniel College, you may be able to help find out. Bradley is currently working on a project that he hopes will provide a glimpse into what people are thinking at random moments in time.

Based on the theories of psychologist and philosopher Wilhelm Wundt, the project involves randomly timed twitter prompts sent to the cell phones of participants. When they receive the message, they are to respond with whatever they were thinking about before getting the message, which will then appear as a “tweet.”

“The idea came from the class discussion itself – we were talking about the introspection protocol, and I had just heard about this talk at a consciousness conference,” said Bradley, referring to a presentation in which the conference audience would be randomly prompted by a beeping device. The idea comes from Wundt’s work on the reliability of introspection as a source of information in psychological studies.

The project is temporarily on hold due to some server software issues Bradley ran into while writing a program to implement the experiment, he explained. But once he finds some time during which students are not using his server, Bradley will be able to get things going and start collecting data.

“The project is really pedagogical in nature: to teach people how Wundt’s protocol was supposed to work, and what he thought we could learn from it,” Bradley explained. “If it works, we could use the system to create a set of publicly-accessible introspective reports, which may actually be useful in research on the validity of the technique.”

Adam Dolbey, a junior at McDaniel, was intrigued by the idea: “That actually sounds pretty interesting. It would be cool to see what sorts of things people are thinking about at a given moment.”

When asked about possibly taking part in the experiment, Dolbey responded, “Yeah, I might do it. It helps science, it sounds easy, and I would be very interested in the results.”

Anyone who would like to be a part of this experiment may do so. In order to participate, go to and create an account (unless you already have one). Start following the account named McDMandM2010. Then, set your account options so that direct messages are sent to your phone.

When the experiment begins you will start receiving prompts on your phone, at which point you will reply with a tweet regarding what you were thinking.