Conceptual overview

Sessions

In oTree, a session is an event during which multiple participants take part in a series of tasks or games. An example of a session would be:

“A number of participants will come to the lab and play a public goods game, followed by a questionnaire. Participants get paid EUR 10.00 for showing up, plus their earnings from the games.”

Subsessions

A session is a series of subsessions; subsessions are the “sections” or “modules” that constitute a session. For example, if a session consists of a public goods game followed by a questionnaire, the public goods game would be subsession 1, and the questionnaire would be subsession 2. In turn, each subsession is a sequence of pages the user must navigate through. For example, if you had a 4-page public goods game followed by a 2-page questionnaire:

_images/session_subsession.png

If a game is repeated for multiple rounds, each round is a subsession.

Groups

Each subsession can be further divided into groups of players; for example, you could have a subsession with 30 players, divided into 15 groups of 2 players each. (Note: groups can be shuffled between subsessions.)

Object hierarchy

oTree’s entities can be arranged into the following hierarchy:

Session
    Subsession
        Group
            Player
                Page
  • A session is a series of subsessions
  • A subsession contains multiple groups
  • A group contains multiple players
  • Each player proceeds through multiple pages

Participant

In oTree, the terms “player” and “participant” have distinct meanings. The relationship between participant and player is the same as the relationship between session and subsession:

_images/participant_player.png

A player is an instance of a participant in one particular subsession. A player is like a temporary “role” played by a participant. A participant can be player 2 in the first subsession, player 1 in the next subsession, and so on.

What is “self”?

Short answer

In Python, self is an instance of the class you’re currently under. If you are ever wondering what self means in a particular context, scroll up until you see the name of the class.

For example, in this code, self is a group (an instance of the Group class).

class Group(BaseGroup):

    def set_bonus(self):
        self.bonus = 100

Long answer

Here is an example that explains what self does.

Let’s say you want to write a function that sets a player’s payoff. The argument to the function is a player object:

def set_bonus(player):
    player.bonus = 100

If you have not done object-oriented programming before, your first instinct may be to define it as a function somewhere in your module:

class Subsession(BaseSubsession):
    ...

class Group(BaseGroup):
    ...

class Player(BasePlayer):
    ...

def set_bonus(player):
    player.bonus = 100

However, in object-oriented programming, it’s recommended to keep your code organized by putting functions inside the class that they are related to. So, we should do this:

class Player(BasePlayer):

    def set_bonus(player):
        player.bonus = 100

(Once we move it inside a class, we usually call it a “method” rather than a “function”, but the distinction is not that important.)

Now that it’s under Player, we should refer to it as Player.set_bonus, not just set_bonus. So, if we have a player object, we can do this:

Player.set_bonus(some_player)

In Python, this can also be written in the shorter form:

some_player.set_bonus()

A little bit of magic takes place, and the some_player on the left of the dot is automatically passed as the argument to set_bonus, so it can be omitted from the parentheses.

In fact, every method defined under Player must take an argument which is a player object:

class Player(BasePlayer):

    def set_bonus(player):
        player.bonus = 100

    def do_stuff(player):
        ...

    def do_stuff2(player):
        ...

However, there is one problem with this code. If I decide to rename my class from Player to Contestant, that means I would have to rename lots of variables everywhere in my class:

class Contestant(BaseContestant):

    def set_bonus(contestant):
        contestant.bonus = 100

    def do_stuff(contestant):
        ...

    def do_stuff2(contestant):
        ...

To avoid this inconvenience, in Python it’s recommended to always name a method’s first argument self, with the understanding that self is an instance of whatever class you are in:

So, this:

class Player(BasePlayer):

    def set_bonus(player):
        player.bonus = 100

Becomes this:

class Player(BasePlayer):

    def set_bonus(self):
        self.bonus = 100

We know self is a player, because we are in the Player class. The name self is just shorter and more convenient than player.

This is similar to how people don’t use their own names when they talk about themselves; they just use pronouns like “me”, “myself”, and “I”. So, self is basically a pronoun.

Here is a diagram of how you can refer to objects in the hierarchy within your code:

_images/object_model_self.png

For example, if you are in a method on the Player class, you can access the player’s payoff with self.payoff (because self is the player). But if you are inside a Page class in pages.py, the equivalent expression is self.player.payoff, which traverses the pointer from ‘page’ to ‘player’.

Self: extended examples

Here are some code examples to illustrate:

class Session(...) # this class is defined in oTree-core
    def example(self):

        # current session object
        self

        self.config

        # child objects
        self.get_subsessions()
        self.get_participants()

class Participant(...) # this class is defined in oTree-core
    def example(self):

        # current participant object
        self

        # parent objects
        self.session

        # child objects
        self.get_players()

in your models.py

class Subsession(BaseSubsession):
    def example(self):

        # current subsession object
        self

        # parent objects
        self.session

        # child objects
        self.get_groups()
        self.get_players()

        # accessing previous Subsession objects
        self.in_previous_rounds()
        self.in_all_rounds()

class Group(BaseGroup):
    def example(self):

        # current group object
        self

        # parent objects
        self.session
        self.subsession

        # child objects
        self.get_players()

class Player(BasePlayer):

    def example(self):

        # current player object
        self

        # method you defined on the current object
        self.my_custom_method()

        # parent objects
        self.session
        self.subsession
        self.group
        self.participant

        self.session.config

        # accessing previous player objects
        self.in_previous_rounds()

        # equivalent to self.in_previous_rounds() + [self]
        self.in_all_rounds()

in your pages.py

class MyPage(Page):
    def example(self):

        # current page object
        self

        # parent objects
        self.session
        self.subsession
        self.group
        self.player
        self.participant
        self.session.config