Volume 5, Article 23

Volume 5, Article 23

Comparing Well-Being Constructs Between Mechanical Turk™ and Undergraduate Student Samples
Zachary J. Kunicki and Lisa L. Harlow

Citation: Kunicki, Z. J., & Harlow, L. L. (2021). Comparing Well-Being Constructs Between Mechanical Turk™ and Undergraduate Student Samples. European Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 5, 23, 1-10.

Processing dates: Submitted 5th May 2021; Resubmitted 29th October 2021; Accepted 3rd November 2021; Published 22nd December 2021

Volume 5, Article 23


Background: Mechanical Turk™ (MTurk™) is an online service through Amazon where users are paid for completing  surveys or other tasks. Whereas other studies have evaluated MTurk™ for use in other areas of psychology, such as clinical samples, no known study has evaluated MTurk™ for use in well-being assessment or other aspects of positive psychology. The purpose of this study was to fill this gap in the literature.

Methods: Samples of 500 MTurk™ participants and 720 undergraduate students completed measures of satisfaction with  life, purpose in life, resilience, self-esteem, proactive coping, cognitive flexibility, and social support.

Results: Results showed the MTurk™ sample was overall more heterogeneous across demographic variables than the undergraduate sample. A MANOVA found differences between the samples, Pillai’s Trace = .16, F (9, 1209) = 25.48, p < .001, partial η² = .16, with small-to-medium effect sizes for all measures. Measurement invariance tests suggest the factor loadings for items were different across the two groups.

Discussion: Whereas differences were found between the two groups on most measures, these differences were small with the exception of social support. Previous research shows MTurk™ participants tend to be lower in social support, which researchers should consider when gathering MTurk™ data.

Conclusions: These results suggest MTurk™ appears to be a viable and more diverse alternative to undergraduate student samples when studying well-being.

Keywords: Well-Being, Mechanical Turk™, Undergraduate Students, Survey Research,


Zachary J. Kunicki, PhD, MS, MPH is with the University of Rhode Island, Department of Psychology, USA

Lisa L. Harlow, PhD is Professor of Psychology at University of Rhode Island, Department of Psychology, USA