At research labs across Penn’s campus, students, staff and faculty are participating in research experiments on human behavior, and making a little pocket money for their efforts.
Announcements recruiting volunteers can be found almost everywhere throughout the University—displayed on banners on Locust Walk, posted on signs and fliers inside University buildings as well as on the Experiments@Penn website.
Paid experiments on consumer behavior, market behavior and game theory are conducted at Penn’s Wharton Behavioral Laboratory in Huntsman Hall and Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall. Participants are usually paid $10 an hour but can sometimes earn more for performance-based studies. Volunteers complete questionnaires, participate in online experiments, or interact in groups for 30- to 60-minutes.
One recent experiment at the Behavioral Lab informed a study on consumer preferences for color combinations that was co-written by Wharton Marketing Professor Wes Hutchinson and published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology last year.
Hutchinson, who serves as faculty director of the Behavioral Lab, says participants in the experiment used Nike’s NIKEiD website to design their own running shoe. Later, they were asked to take part in a second test in which they rated how attractive they found 30 athletic shoes, one of which was the shoe they had previously designed.
“The study found that they liked their self-designed shoe whether or not they accurately remembered (it),” Hutchinson explains. “And when they incorrectly thought they had designed a different shoe that ‘believed authorship’ made that shoe seem more attractive.”
In the published paper, data from the first phase of the experiments was analyzed to determine what color combinations people prefer. It turns out that people generally used several colors from the same region of the color space, but also tended to pick a very different contrasting color for the Nike “swoosh.”
A very different sort of experiment is being conducted this month at the Psychology Department’s Kable Lab, 3720 Walnut St.—one that some might literally find shocking. It is a study on decision making that delivers mild electric shocks to the top of participants’ hands.
“The shocks will be unpleasant, but will be customized to be tolerable to you and will not be harmful,” the description of the experiment states. Volunteers for this experiment earn $20 an hour, twice the going rate. And, perhaps surprisingly, Kable Lab Research Specialist Annika Hillebrandt says she “has not had too much trouble recruiting participants.”
For more information about paid experiments at the University, visit the Experiments@Penn registration website: https://fission.sas.upenn.edu/psychex/index.php.
Originally published on February 10, 2011