Behavioral Lab

Mission Statement

The Wharton Behavioral Lab (WBL) is a shared asset for all Wharton faculty and students. It provides a variety of services that support data collection for behavioral research on business-related topics. The primary goal is to enhance the research productivity of Wharton faculty by minimizing the operational costs, both time and money, of conducting research. The primary services provided are maintaining and updating:

  • data collection facilities and equipment,
  • substantial participant pools (including a panel of 4,000+ students and other members of the Penn community, a panel of business executives, and a wide variety of commercially provided online panels)
  • efficient staffing for conducting state-of-the-art experimental research.

The WBL seeks to contribute to Wharton’s reputation for excellence in academic research and enhance our ability to attract and retain the very best scholars.

History

The Wharton Behavioral Laboratory in its current form began in Spring 2005. The initial proposal estimated that the research volume would range between 5,000 and 14,000 participant-hours annually (with the lower number being the 2005 volume). In the first year, actual volume exceeded those estimates and a SHDH location was added to the JMHH location. This immediate high volume was interpreted as evidence that the WBL addressed a major deficiency in research support that had slowed the rate of research productivity and/or reduced the sample sizes used in behavioral research projects. In 2013, the on-campus volume was over 22,000 participant-hours and online volume was over 130,000 completed surveys/experiments. This growth since 2005 has resulted from increased numbers of faculty doing behavioral research and increased volume per researcher. The most active academic departments are Marketing, Operations and Information Management, Management, and Business Economics and Public Policy. In general, all indications are that demand for data collection by the WBL is likely to continue to grow at an accelerating rate for the foreseeable future.

The operating procedures of the WBL differ from those of most behavioral labs insofar as it pools resources across all Wharton behavioral researchers. WBL staff and student research assistants in each physical location run several distinct research projects simultaneously for 5 consecutive days (called a “session,” which consists of 20 one-hour time slots with 10-14 participants scheduled for each slot). Each session provides a sample size of 150-250 participants. This allows the WBL to achieve high levels of efficiency and quick turnaround times. This contrasts with the traditional model for behavioral research, in which individual researchers run separate labs or share facilities and scheduling, but collect data with their own students and staff.