A special room for unique research was built into the bottom level of Gerri C. LeBow Hall, the recently completed home of Drexel’s business school. Visitors entering it see a sign that reads “Behavioral Lab,” and what looks like a normal reception area.
There’s a lot more going on in the LeBow College of Business’ new behavioral lab than meets the eye.
But tilt your head up, and you may notice some things that seem out of place: a long white microphone and a black, dome-shaped camera fixture.
The lab is wired for audio and video recording, sound playback and, in one room, even climate control, allowing researchers from LeBow or elsewhere at Drexel to study how people act and react — all from a control room filled with screens, buttons and knobs.
The centerpiece of the lab is a large studio room that contains five different cameras mounted on the walls, plus a one-way mirror through which researchers can watch from the lab’s control room, unseen by their subjects.
The room allows researchers to study how people react to certain messages or stimuli. Instead of relying on surveys or written responses where people may or may not convey the truth about their reaction, researchers can watch their body language for clues: a lean, a slouch or a smile.
An experimenter can also pipe in sound or, if they wish, control the temperature in the large studio room. Some research has found that people feel warmer, more positive feelings as temperatures go higher, so researchers might test how temperature might affect business transactions. If you’re courting a new client, is it better to meet in Philadelphia during the winter or in Florida?
Outside of the main studio room, a smaller conference room with chairs arranged around a table allows for a different experimental environment. It, too, is monitored by cameras and a one-way mirror.
Even the lab’s reception area can be used as part of experiments. If you want to study how people react when they have to wait excessively long for an appointment, you can watch and listen from the control room as they squirm and groan.