Texas A&M Human Behavior Laboratory now open for business  

Writer: Laura Muntean, 979-847-9211, laura.muntean@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Dr. Marco Palma, 979-845-5284, mapalma@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – The Texas A&M Human Behavior Lab hosted an open house and guest lecture as part of the grand opening recently at the Centeq Building, 1500 Research Parkway, Suite 221 in College Station.

Dr. Marco Palma, director of the Human Behavior Lab and professor in the department of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University. (photo by Butch Ireland Photography)

The opening also featured a tour of what is now the largest human behavior lab in the world.

The lab uses technology that analyzes facial expressions, galvanic skin response, heart and respiration rates, decision-making time, eye tracking and neural signals. Researchers will observe the physical responses of decision-making in real time and use this advanced technology to better understand how emotional responses drive people’s decisions.

“We are trying to understand why people make the decisions they do,” said Dr. Marco Palma, director of the Human Behavior Lab and professor in the department of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University. “We are looking forward to collaborating with people across campus to better understand the elusive secrets of the human mind.”

Palma said he hopes the Human Behavior Laboratory will be able to catalyze transformational changes to improve decision-making across different aspects of daily life to improve the lives of Texans and people around the world.

The event started with a lecture at the AgriLife Center on the Texas A&M campus by Colin Camerer, Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Finance and Economics at the California Institute of Technology and a MacArthur Fellow.

“Camerer was an early architect of behavioral game theory and a pioneer in the field of neuroeconomics,” Palma explained.

Eye tracking glasses register what is being focused while recording it back to the computer for further research. (photo by Butch Ireland Photography)

Following the lecture, the lab opened to showcase equipment and research opportunities. The lab is able to utilize its technology to measure multiple biometric characteristics at one time, increasing its efficiency and speed, Palma said.

“With assistance from the advanced technology provided by our corporate partner iMotions, we are able to collect data and run experiments so much faster and more accurately than ever before,” he said.

“This clearly is the next frontier, trying to understand human behavior and what the incentives are that we need to understand to help people with what is in their best interest based on strong, sound scientific evidence,” said Dr. Patrick Stover, vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “I look forward to this program flourishing, not only to the benefit of Texas A&M, but for the benefit of society.”

In 2016, the Human Behavior Laboratory received a $1.5 million grant from the Research Development Fund, which makes multimillion-dollar investments in core facilities that support cutting-edge, multidisciplinary research at Texas A&M.

“Advanced, multidisciplinary research into human behavior is absolutely essential to our success as a research institution,” said Dr. Mark Barteau, vice president for research at Texas A&M.

Barteau also leads the university’s research division administering the Research Development Fund on behalf of Texas A&M, the Texas A&M Health Science Center, the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station and AgriLife Research.

“We want to conduct research that addresses the grand challenges of today and tomorrow,” Barteau said. “We plan to invest $15 million or more annually in collaborative projects and core facilities, like the Human Behavior Lab, that advance this high level of research.”

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