The majority of the center’s research is conducted on its Virtual Laboratory (VLab): a group of Web servers dedicated to the creation and running of online decision research programs.
Conducting decision research online has many advantages. Primary among them is diversity of research participants. Whereas many psychological research studies are limited to populations of local undergraduates, virtual lab studies can attract participants of a variety of ages, geographic locations, educational levels, and other aspects. In a recent VLab study, data from a large number Canadian respondents was collected as easily as data from respondents in the United States. Another advantage of virtual experimentation is the timeliness of the research. Where running participants one at a time can lead to studies that go on for months, VLab studies can gather data from several hundred participants in a single day, lessening the possibility of seasonal effects marring the results. Other benefits include openness of Center activities, accuracy in timekeeping and accounting, and enforcement of confidentiality (or anonymity).
VLab has been in operation for two years, collecting data from several thousand participants and building up a participant pool of over 30,000 names. The VLab platform consists of two servers running Linux, MySql and PHPESP. A number of custom applications have been written to facilitate the management of psychological experiments.
For more information about VLab or information on contracting CDS to run a study, please contact the center’s associate director for research and technology.