Introduction

Automated testing is essential in modern software development. In the context of psychological experiment development, automated tests help you to ensure the robustness of your experiment’s implementation without having to invest tedious hours in manual testing.

To construct an automated test in psychTestR, you first need a test implementation saved in a file named app.R. Suppose we’ve implemented the following minimal example:

library(psychTestR)

display_number <- function(i) {
  one_button_page(paste("Page", i))
}

timeline <- join(
  lapply(1:5, display_number),
  final_page("End.")
)

test <- make_test(timeline, opt = test_options("Minimal test", "password"))

Now make a new file, called test.R (or whatever you want). Within this file, we construct an automated tester using the AppTester class:

library(psychTestR)

dir <- system.file("demos/minimal-test", package = "psychTestR", mustWork = TRUE)

app <- AppTester$new(dir)

We’ve put a sample app.R file in the psychTestR package, an the above example finds that file using system.file; to point the code to your own app.R file, simply replace the system.file call with the path to the directory containing your app.R file.

This AppTester object instantiates a headless browser which then navigates your psychTestR test, just like a real participant. This object has various methods that are useful for interacting with the psychTestR test and probing its internal state. For example, we can probe the current UI text:

## [1] "Page 1 Next"

We can click the “Next” button:

## [1] "Page 2 Next"

We can pull local variables:

## $.module
## NULL
## 
## $.results_label
## [1] "results"

We can run assertions that throw an error if a given condition is not satisfied:

And we can combine all of this together into an automated script that checks that our test runs as expected:

See ?AppTester for more information on automated testing utilities.

A real-world example

The above example was rather simple, but automated testing comes into its own with more complex implementations. Here is an example from the test suite in the psychTestR package, designed to check that nested modules work as intended.

The app tester

context("test_modules")

test_that("main", {
  app <- AppTester$new("apps/modules")

  app$expect_ui_text("We begin in the global environment. Next")
  app$get_locals() %>% expect_equal(list(.module = NULL,
                                         .results_label = "results"))

  app$click_next()
  app$expect_ui_text("We've now entered the parent environment. Next")
  app$get_locals() %>% expect_equal(list(.module = "parent",
                                         .results_label = "parent"))

  app$click_next()
  app$expect_ui_text("In the parent environment, we define a local variable, x = 42. Next")
  app$get_locals()$x %>% expect_equal(42)

  app$click_next()
  app$expect_ui_text("Now we enter the child environment. Next")
  app$get_locals() %>% expect_equal(list(.module = "child",
                                         .results_label = "parent.child"))

  app$click_next()
  app$expect_ui_text("We can't see x any more: x is now NULL. Next")
  app$get_locals()$x %>% expect_equal(NULL)

  app$click_next()
  app$expect_ui_text("We can set it to a new value, though: x = 65. Next")
  app$get_locals()$x %>% expect_equal(65)

  app$click_next()
  app$expect_ui_text("Now we return to the parent environment. Next")
  app$get_locals() %>% expect_equal(list(.module = "parent",
                                         .results_label = "parent",
                                         x = 42))

  app$click_next()
  app$expect_ui_text("We see that x = 42 again. Next")

  app$click_next()
  app$expect_ui_text("Now we return to the global environment. Next")
  app$get_locals() %>% expect_equal(list(.module = NULL,
                                         .results_label = "results"))

  app$click_next()
  app$expect_ui_text("We see that x is is NULL again.")
  app$get_locals()$x %>% expect_equal(NULL)

  app$get_results() %>% as.list() %>% expect_equal(list(
    parent = list(x = 42),
    parent.child = list(x = 65)
  ))

  app$stop()
})

The app code

library(psychTestR)

elts <- join(
  one_button_page("We begin in the global environment."),
  module(
    "parent",

    one_button_page("We've now entered the parent environment."),
    code_block(function(state, ...) {
      x <- 42
      set_local("x", x, state)
      save_result(state, "x", x)
    }),
    one_button_page("In the parent environment, we define a local variable, x = 42."),

    module(
      "child",
      one_button_page("Now we enter the child environment."),
      one_button_page("We can't see x any more: x is now NULL."),
      code_block(function(state, ...) {
        x <- 65
        set_local("x", x, state)
        save_result(state, "x", x)
      }),
      one_button_page("We can set it to a new value, though: x = 65.")
    ),

    one_button_page("Now we return to the parent environment."),
    one_button_page("We see that x = 42 again.")
  ),

  one_button_page("Now we return to the global environment."),
  final_page("We see that x is is NULL again.")
)

make_test(elts)