My next foray into research volunteering involved a visit to the clinical psychology department. I was being tested for my ability to perceive randomness. As I had expected, human are rubbish at this, but I did get to talk a little about why this is and what people typically perceive as random.

I was first shown a number of 20-character long sequences, made up of ‘H’s and’T’s, to represent the results of a fair coin being tossed. I was asked to rank these in order of how random I thought these appeared. After evaluating the sequences, I then moved on to a computer task. During this test, I was firstly asked to generate a sequence that I thought looked random. I did this by typing ‘H’ or ‘T’ in a 200-letter long sequence.

Then things changed, and I viewed a 200-character sequence broken down into blocks of five letters.

I was then asked to repeat the computer exercise, but by creating forty 5-letter long sequences instead of one huge 200-character long chain. My behaviour in relation to the representation of randomness changed between the two tests. One of the measures that the researcher was considering was the number of times I changed between ‘H’ and ‘T’ – the more changes, the less random overall.

As is typical for many of the research volunteering opportunities at Manchester University, I was rewarded with a £10 Amazon voucher for my participation.

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