New Behavioral Lab Expands Faculty Research Opportunities

A new behavioral lab has opened on the fifth floor of the Haas School’s faculty wing, enabling faculty to complete more small-group studies.

The behavioral lab, comprised of six small offices, was built to support cross-disciplinary behavioral research, which typically involves one to six participants at a time. One office features a big-screen TV and video game console, complete with steering wheel, for experiments; another offers food samples for marketing research. The facility was built in space previously used as a hallway. Faculty held a grand opening celebration of the facility on May 10.

Before the lab was constructed, 20 faculty, post-doc, and doctoral student researchers used the Koret classroom breakout rooms, logging in

more than 6,700 participant hours last year. The new lab will increase the capacity to more than 8,000 participant hours annually and allow a greater number of small-group studies to run simultaneously. 

“The behavioral lab is a totally critical component in my research,” says Assistant Professor Dana Carney in the faculty’s Management of Organizations Group. Carney’s research on success, leadership, and adaptive behavior involves looking at participants’ physiological changes, including increases in testosterone, cortisol, heart rates, and temperature.

Carney can’t talk about her current research in the behavioral lab because it involves Haas volunteers. But she notes that the behavioral lab at Columbia, where she previously worked, allowed her to study how being given power in a lab context makes people more stress-resilient. Participants could give a speech without becoming stressed and keep their arms in buckets of ice-cold water longer, evidence of higher pain tolerance, she recalls. Her conclusion: “Power changes us physiologically to endure the stresses of life. It literally acts as a drug to help us better handle the challenges of our lives.”

Such work would not be possible without a behavioral lab, which is why Carney says she is “very, very excited about the new lab at Haas.” “These studies have to be done in closed rooms where you have two people or a small group interacting,” she says.

Other lines of research that will be explored at the lab include :

  • the effect of experimental variation on people’s confidence and feelings about procedural justice;
  • the effects of quantitative complexity on risk-taking in financial investments;
  • impression management and the effects of overconfidence on credibility;
  • how differences in perceived power and status affect behavior in small groups;
  • factors that influence how people negotiate.

The Xlab, a unit of the Institute of Business and Economic Research, continues to operate at Berkeley-Haas. During the past year Xlab ran more than 200 experiment sessions involving nearly 6,000 participants.