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Steinberg-Dietrich Hall on Jan. 28, 2022.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

The Wharton Behavioral Lab is now running in-person studies in a newly renovated lab space in Steinberg-Dietrich Hall.

The WBL resumed in-person studies in its upgraded lab space in the fall 2021 semester, with sample sizes of 150 to 200 participants per study. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was forced to shift to online studies in 2020 and is continuing to conduct some studies virtually.

The space — which was part of a $14.86 million renovation to Steinberg-Dietrich Hall proposed in 2019 — features technologies such as screen-based eye tracking and heart rate and skin conductance sensors, according to its website

“We have breakout rooms [and] two twenty-seat labs here in our new location,” WBL Senior Research Coordinator Mary Spratt said. “We used to be separated every day, and now we’re all together, so we’ve been able to form a more collaborative team. We’re just really excited to be back on campus and to be running sessions in person.”

WBL's main goal is to increase research productivity and lower operational costs for the experimenters — Wharton faculty members across 10 different academic departments, as well as those co-authoring their studies.

Participants include Penn students, staff, and other community members, who can sign up to participate in studies and will receive compensation in the form of cash or Amazon gift cards upon completion. 

The WBL first began in spring 2005 with a single lab in Huntsman Hall, expanding to Steinberg-Dietrich Hall when the participant hours exceeded their expectations. 

In 2020, the WBL published 30 articles with 70 active researchers across eight academic departments, and 1,126,793 participants completed online studies, according to the Annual Report

“There’s been quite a variety of studies that we’ve handled even just in the past few months; no two studies really look the same. There’s been a lot of exciting opportunities to work in a hands-on manner with the researchers, with all of our team, and do some sort of creative problem solving with the different challenges that arise from study to study,” WBL Lab Coordinator Sophie Bartholomew said.