On Your Best Behavior(al Lab)

At the Y, Marriott School faculty have the cutting-edge resources to help them answer “Why?”

One of those assets is the Marketing Research and Behavioral Lab, one of the largest behavioral labs in the country. The lab fields around forty studies every semester, with more than thirteen thousand subjects cycling through the lab during that same time. Marriott School faculty can conduct studies for their academic research in the lab that provides insights into how individuals make decisions, interact with different technology, and other topics. It was created thanks to a donation by Don and Arda Jeane Christensen specifically to marketing.


“Since the lab was constructed in 2011, we have made huge strides,” says Darron Billeter, head of the behavior lab steering committee and professor of marketing at the Marriott School. “The marketing and information systems faculty alone have published more than fifteen A-level publications using the lab, a dramatic increase.”

Under the steering committee’s leadership, the behavioral lab has grown in efficiency and technological capabilities. The lab boasts twenty-six computers, a food storage and prep area, sensors that tell researchers what part of the brain is active, skin detectors to measure perspiration, and three different types of eye trackers.

As for what is studied in the lab, that varies greatly. One recent study by Marriott School IS professors Tony Vance and Bonnie Anderson involved warnings online and why internet surfers choose to heed or disregard warnings that their computers may be hacked. Another from marketing professor Ryan Elder studied sensory marketing and how locomotion in signage can motivate drivers to change their speeds.

“The behavioral lab at the Marriott School, coupled with the tremendous access to research participants, is a critical resource to facilitate research productivity,” Elder says. “Because of the behavioral lab, we are able to satisfy the unique demands of review teams from top-tier journals, including using eye-tracking technology to clarify theory.”


The steering committee is continuing to look for innovative ways to improve the researching process.

“There’s a whole realm of possibilities,” Billeter says. “Faculty have an opportunity to advance the body of knowledge in their areas of expertise through the lab.”