A recent article in Science profiled how social scientists are using Mechanical Turk to conduct research studies. Mechanical Turk lets scientists test and conduct studies quickly and cheaply and choose participants based on specific criteria from over 500,000 Workers in 190 different countries.
The article details how scientists are using Mechanical Turk to conduct bigger, faster and cheaper research studies. For example, social scientists used 10,000 Turkers (as Mechanical Turk Workers are sometimes called) to create a tool for tracking the emotional content of Twitter messages (Science, 30 September, p. 1814). In another study, Gabriel Lenz, a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, asked Mechanical Turk Workers to look at photographs of Brazilian political candidates and fill in a data sheet. According to the article, Lenz and his team had all the data he needed in just a few weeks and at a total cost of $160. The results of their research appeared in the social science journal World Politics.
"The use of Mechanical Turk subjects will eventually become mainstream" Adam Berinsky, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says in the article. Berinsky goes on to predict that many more social science papers using Mechanical Turk will appear. “Everyone I know is using it,” he says. "The obvious advantage is the speed and cost."
You can find the article here.