Business Simulation Lab

Dave Burbank
Dave Burbank
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Sona Systems
Dave Burbank

The lab uses Sona Systems to manage its largest participant pool of students and staff. Alumni can also take part in surveys—helping faculty understand how business professionals make decisions.

Anyone with a connection to Cornell University or Ithaca, New York can participate in research at the Business Simulation Lab. All participants for the research studies at the lab are paid. During the 2017-2018 academic year, participants earned a total of $36,000 for supporting academic research.

Main Participant Room
Dave Burbank

The main room in the Business Simulation Lab has 20 participant computers with privacy dividers. A movable, sound-proof wall can split the room into two. Participants use these computers to take surveys or play economic games designed by lab staff.

Focus-Group Room
Dave Burbank

The focus-group room is equipped with an eight-person table and high-definition audio/visual recording equipment. Researchers can watch and take notes from behind one-way glass. Helen Chun, School of Hotel Administration, and Kate Min, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, recently used the space to simulate a restaurant. They projected a restaurant scene onto the wall and played sound to mimic a restaurant’s ambience.

Field Studies
Dave Burbank

The Business Simulation Lab is equipped with iPads and laptops that allow research assistants to walk around campus and ask potential participants to take short surveys. These were used most recently by Kaitlin Woolley, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. Research assistants surveyed people as they came out of Cornell gyms. Participants took a short Qualtrics survey about their gym preferences and exercise activities.

Breakout Rooms
Dave Burbank

These four-person breakout rooms are available to the lab when a participant needs to feel as though they are completely unobserved. A recent PhD student used these rooms to study what MBA students say on conference calls. The participants took surveys and recorded themselves, using handheld devices.

Behavioral Research in Business

“Professors come to us with a recipe—a detailed plan for their research. It’s our job to follow that recipe and run their experiments,” says Brad Turner, manager of the Debra Paget and Jeffrey Berg Business Simulation Laboratory (BSL). The lab facilitates business research with a designated facility in Sage Hall, where lab staff coordinates and runs in-lab and online studies, and hires and trains research assistants. “Behavioral experiments are the bedrock of research in several areas of research done by business school faculty,” says Manoj Thomas, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, the director of the BSL. “Faculty members studying consumer behavior, behavioral accounting, organizational behavior, and behavioral operations rely on the principles of experimental psychology to test their hypotheses. The Business Simulation Lab at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business provides the infrastructure—the space, the technological tools, trained research assistants, and most importantly the subject pool—to do such research.“

“Research has three main parts: design, implementation, and analysis,” Turner explains. “Implementation is where we come in.” Faculty, postdoctorates, and PhD students design online surveys, economic games, group discussion focus groups, and field studies in accounting, finance, marketing, operations, and more. During the 2017-2018 academic year, 24 researchers ran 33 studies in the lab, with lab space booked for 550 hours.

“The most important ingredient to a professor’s recipe is people. Most anyone can participate in studies at the BSL,” says Turner. During the 2017-2018 academic year 1,500 people participated, mostly students, but also staff and members of the broader Ithaca community. Students in the Master of Business Administration degree program helped accounting and finance faculty simulate sophisticated business decision-making scenarios. All research that takes place at the BSL follows standard procedure at Cornell and is approved by the Institutional Review Board for Human Participants.