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The Experimental Social Sciences Laboratory (aka Xlab, http://xlab.berkeley.edu) is located in the Haas School of Business and managed by the Institute of Business and Economic Research.  The Xlab is equipped to conduct computer-based social science experiments with up to 40 subjects simultaneously. Its Executive Director is Prof. Shachar Kariv. Nobel Laureate George Akerlof was the PI on the founding NSF grant.

Xlab presents the opportunity for developing new lines of research in the economics of aging. New experiments could shed light on such topics as risk aversion, retirement saving decisions, response to retirement incentives built into pension structures, spousal coordination of retirement decisions, behavior in regard to seeking health care, response to health care pricing structures in insurance programs, and so on. Its presence complements the growing strength of behavioral and psychological economics at Berkeley--in the Economics Department,in the Business School, and in departments as diverse as Sociology, the School of Information, and EECS. While one may usually think of installations like the Xlab in the context of strategic decision making in groups, this lab is also explicitly intended for use in studying individual decision making, and the design of markets and institutions. A future goal of CEDA is to facilitate the use of Xlab on aging-related projects, including funded pilot projects and possibly dissertation research on aging-related topics. The intention is to encourage researchers and investigators to think creatively about the potential use of this facility as a resource for further research.

This experimental facility is the largest wireless experimental facility in North America.  Many of the interests of the behavioral and experimental economists center on issues important to aging, such as savings behavior, participation in retirement savings programs, retirement itself, behavior in relation to seeking health care, and other issues related to aging research.

In most recent years, the work at the frontier between psychology and economics has made use of laboratory experiments. The controlled setting of a laboratory allows economists to test for theories that are hard to distinguish using field data. The Xlab will most likely prove useful in learning more about age-related decisions such as the timing of retirement and the adoption of medical treatments. We are interested in using laboratory experiments to test hypotheses on the economics of aging. This facility serves to promote and assist research in these areas.

An important objective of CEDA is to develop a research program in behavioral economics, using the Xlab to measure the key variables and test the key hypotheses, to shed light on how people actually make decisions and choices related to life cycle saving, retirement, seeking health care, choice of pension and investment plan, and portfolio balance, for example.

Researchers in behavioral and psychological economics are encouraged to use the new XLAB for work on saving and investment behavior, which has resulted in at least one proposed pilot project in this area.  The Xlab staff can lower the barriers to entry by assisting investigators with subject recruitment and payment and with IT aspects of experiments.  A Master Protocol covering many types of experiments makes it immensely easier to obtain Human Subjects approval.

To learn more about conducting research in the Xlab, go to the Xlab website at: http://xlab.berkeley.edu.