Josef Bless and colleagues found that smartphones can be used as a tool for psychological testing (Credit: Eivind Senneset/UiB)

iPhone app gives reliable psychological test results

An iPhone app has been shown to yield psychological research results as reliable as laboratory tests.

The app was created by psychology PhD student Josef Bless at the University of Bergen, Norway to carry out dichotic listening tests, used to detect which side of a patient’s brain is most active during language processing.

iDichotic was launched on the App Store in 2011, where it can be downloaded for free, and more than 1,000 people have downloaded the app with roughly half sending their test results to the researchers' database.

The researchers analysed the first 167 results they received and compared them with the results of 76 individuals tested in laboratories in Norway and Australia.

"We found that the results from the app were as reliable as those of the controlled laboratory tests. This means that smartphones can be used as a tool for psychological testing, opening up a wealth of exciting new possibilities," said Mr Bless.

"The app makes it possible to gather large volumes of data easily and inexpensively. I think we will see more and more psychological tests coming to smartphones."

Mr Bless, who is a member of the Bergen fMRI Group, an interdisciplinary research group headed by Professor Kenneth Hugdahl, came up with the idea about two years ago, while listening to music on his phone.

He said: "I noticed that the sounds of the different instruments were distributed differently between the ears, and it struck me that this was very similar to the tests we routinely use in our laboratory to measure brain function.

“In dichotic listening, each ear is presented with a different syllable at the same time (one to the left and one to the right ear) and the listener has to say which syllable seems clearest.”

The researchers have also developed a special version of iDichotic for patients with schizophrenia who suffer from auditory hallucinations – hearing voices.

The app helps in training patients to improve their focus, so that when they hear voices, they are better able to shut them out.

"Using a mobile app, patients can be tested and receive training at home, instead of having to come to our laboratory," said Bless.

The app is available for download on Apple’s App Store. The listening test takes three minutes and tells you which side of your brain is most active in language processing.

Visit www.idichotic.com to download the app.

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