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Dynamic Process Tracing Methodology

Dynamic Process Tracing (DPT) is a technique for studying decision making; it can be used to study any decision making task that revolves around information that changes over time, and can be used to study multi-stage, multi-alternative evaluation and choice environments.

DPT is most easily described in the context of studying a political campaign. While many types of decision-making can be understood using simpler techniques, a political campaign is inherently dynamic: it unfolds over time with information coming and going during its course. Gaining a fuller understanding of how voters obtain, process, and evaluate the information they encounter requires an approach that allows us to study those voters over time.

DPT simulates this more "chaotic" mode of presentation by having information "scroll" down a computer screen, rather than remaining fixed in place. The user sees labels corresponding to a candidate, and a small amount of information roughly equal to a newspaper headline. Only a limited number of these labels are visible on the computer screen at any one time. The rate of scrolling is such that people can read two or three labels before the position changes. Subjects access information behind the label by clicking on it using the mouse. The scrolling continues in the background while the detailed information is read, however, creating a "cost" in terms of missed information, mimicking the dynamic nature of election information flow.

Dynamic Process Tracing Environment

The Dynamic Process Tracing Environment (DPTE) is a web-based system that allows any researcher interested in examining decision making over time to make use of the Dynamic Process Tracing methodology. DPTE makes it relatively easy to accomplish a set of standard experimental tasks, allowing researchers to devise additional manipulations to study dynamic decision processes.

The Researcher Interface is where a researcher can assemble or create an Experiment. The Researcher Interface contains over a dozen separate screens with fields and controls that allow the researcher to create and enter information that, taken together, describes an Experiment. All of this data is automatically stored in a database and retrieved as needed for creating and editing Experiments.

The DPTE Player is the environment in which an Experiment is executed; in other words, where the subjects view and interact with the Experiment as it displays the data that the researcher entered in the prescribed manner.