About the Software

By looking at how participants' hand movements settle into one of multiple response alternatives--and how they may be partially pulled toward other alternatives--researchers can get a sense of how a psychological response evolves over time. It's like opening up a single reaction time into a continuous stream of rich cognitive output. Mouse-tracking has been especially useful for assessing the temporal dynamics of cognitive processes, for revealing "hidden" cognitive states, and for fleshing out real-time interactions among cognitive processes. It's also uniquely appropriate for testing motor/spatial effects. Anything's possible, though. There's a lot of rich information revealed in the moving hand and MouseTracker can be very useful in many domains across experimental psychology, cognitive science, and beyond.

MouseTracker is a free-to-use, user-friendly software package that allows researchers to measure real-time hand movements from the streaming x, y coordinates of the computer mouse (while behavioral responses are made based on visual or auditory stimuli), and subsequently visualize, process, and analyze them. The software operates in a Windows XP/Vista/7 environment. Researchers can easily design and run experiments and subsequently analyze the mouse-movement data in an intuitive, graphics-based manner. MouseTracker supports many sophisticated forms of analysis and both simple and complex experimental designs. Experiments can incorporate images, letter strings, sounds, and videos. Once recorded, participants' mouse trajectories can be processed, visualized, averaged, and explored, and measures of attraction/curvature, complexity, velocity, and acceleration can be computed. Precise characterizations of mouse trajectories' temporal and spatial dynamics are available, and these can shed light on a variety of important empirical questions. It contains 3 programs:

  • Runner: a data collection program where a researcher can specify stimuli files, timing, response options, etc., and run participants through studies

  • Designer: a graphics-based program to easily set up the visual layout and response alternatives of an experiment

  • Analyzer: a graphics-based analysis program can then import participants' data from such studies and visualize, process, and analyze the mouse movements.

The software was designed with the intention of being easy-to-use so that any researcher from any domain of psychology or cognitive science (or beyond) could reap the benefits of this new mouse-tracking technique for his or her own research.

MouseTracker is able to handle many different kinds of tasks (using images, letter strings, sounds, and videos--even sequentially or simultaneously) that are uniquely customized by the researcher. An unlimited number of response alternatives may be used, placed anywhere on the screen. In terms of analysis, the program can handle one individual participant's data or aggregate across a whole group of participants' data at the same time. MouseTracker automatically performs space-rescaling. Users can select whether they want to conduct analyses in normalized time or raw time. It easily groups mouse trajectories by specified conditions and visualizes all trajectories within specific conditions for side-by-side visual comparisons. Trajectories can be explored and individually selected for detailed information or exclusion. MouseTracker generates mean trajectories of conditions and computes indices of spatial attraction/curvature and complexity. It also conveniently z-normalizes these (both pooling across and within conditions) for distributional analyses. It also can generate velocity and acceleration profiles of trajectories. All these data are then able to be exported into a comma-separated-value (CSV) file for easy analyzing in Microsoft Excel, prepared in a way that is basically ready-to-go for hypothesis testing and (hopefully, if all went well!) publication.