The research labs of C-SEB


Experimental research

In order to produce dependable knowledge, empirical research must rely on a sound database. At the C-SEB, data is gained chiefly through economic and psychological experiments performed with volunteer subjects. These investigations are carried out either as field experiments in a “natural” environment or as laboratory experiments using custom-equipped computer workplaces.

In the laboratory experiments, subjects must solve simple decision problems or other cognitive tasks for which they will receive material or cash rewards. Some experiments are designed to test or to refine theories, others validate real-life institutions or envisaged ones in a “wind tunnel” test. The results help us understand how humans make decisions and how this decision-making behavior can be described by formal theories.

The laboratories of C-SEB

To carry out behavioral science experiments successfully, it is necessary to possess a well-equipped laboratory infrastructure. At the C-SEB, scientists will find a total of 120 computerized laboratory workplaces at their disposal on the UoC’s campus. Thus, economic and cognitive decision-making situations can be accurately simulated and observed in these laboratories using the most advanced technology.

C-SEB facilities include the Cologne Economic Research Laboratory at the UoC’s Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, as well as the Social Cognition Laboratories at the Faculty of Human Sciences. While the economics labs are situated centrally near the University’s main building, the psychology labs are located in the basement of the main cafeteria and in front of UoC’s University Library.

Participation in experiments

CLER-Poster Participation in experiments is entirely voluntary and open to anybody. At the start of each experiment, participants are given extensive instructions on what to do and which decision problem they are facing. No special knowledge or prior skills whatsoever are needed to solve these tasks. Every year up to 80,000 subjects participate in the experiments, of which 30,000 are in campus labs and 50,000 in online experiments.

While money can be earned in some experiments, participants are given material prizes in others. However, disbursement will depend on the given experiment and, in part, on one’s own decisions and those taken by other participants.

Anyone interested in economic science experiments can sign up in the online database of the Cologne Economic Science Laboratory. Upon commencement of each new experiment, prospective participants will be notified by e-mail and can then register for a session of the experiment. For the psychology experiments, no registration is necessary. Anybody interested can just show up at the lab to participate in a study.