AT THE BATTEN SCHOOL, students not only have access to first-rate faculty, they also have the opportunity to learn from the School’s range of research cen- ters. Whether it’s the Global Policy Center or the Center for Effective Lawmaking, Batten’s centers complement its varying disciplines. Unbeknownst to some (and possibly many) are Batten's behavioral research labs. All four of these labs examine the pivotal role social psychology plays in decision making, as well as its interplay with public policy decisions. For a school of leadership and public policy, labs of this nature constitute a remarkable resource.
Batten faculty members Gabrielle Adams, Eileen Chou, Benjamin Converse and Sophie Trawalter each run their own behavioral labs. As social psychologists work- ing in public policy, their labs—although individually different—share a vested in what makes people tick, along with how it can inform or improve policymaking.
There is the Judgment and Decisions Experimental Lab, also known as the JADE Lab, run by Associate Professor of Public Policy Eileen Chou and Lab Manager Julia Schnyer, who also manages Converse’s So- cial Behavior and Decisions (SoBaD) Lab. Launched in 2012, the JADE Lab is an inter- disciplinary lab that focuses on the orga- nizational, social and psychological forces that regulate individual and group behavior. The lab integrates several behavioral regulators, including incentives (economics), structure (organizational theory) and person-context fit (social psychology). One notable finding from their research con- cerns how people can (ironically) decrease their economic risks by putting themselves in a more-vulnerable position, rather than a less-vulnerable one.
Assistant Professor of Public Policy Ga- brielle Adams' Behavioral Lab is the youngest of the four, having just launched last year. Her lab focuses on interpersonal dynamics and organizational behavior. Researchers with the Behavioral Lab conduct experiments to understand how people behave in interde- pendent contexts. Unlike the others, Adams’s lab administers and maintains the Batten P4 Pool (Public Policy Participant Pool).
"At the end of the day, we’re interested in how people can successfully pursue their goals. If we have rigorous answers to this question, then we can make suggestions about how to cultivate environments that support successful goal pursuit. From there, it’s the work of good policy and good leadership to set the stage."
Students from Adams’ Foundations of Behavioral Science course and Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Psychology Benjamin Converse’s Psych for Leadership course have the option to participate in this research as part of their classes—they, alongside other students at the university, are given course credit, paid or entered into lotteries to receive money for their partici- pation in their studies.
Converse’s Social Behavior and Decisions (SoBaD) Lab focuses chiefly on social judg- ment, self-regulation and decision making in a social context. Currently, the lab's projects are focused on exploring competition and cooperation, reciprocity, and the interplay of group and individual goal pursuit. More recently, the lab is branching out to work with other colleagues at Batten, as well as UVA’s engineering and architecture schools, to try to understand behavioral responses to climate change, including how people will receive conversations about large-scale “geo-engineering” scenarios.
Converse, who started the SoBaD Lab in 2010, said, “At the end of the day, we're inter- ested in how people can successfully pursue their goals. If we have rigorous answers to this question, then we can make suggestions about how to cultivate environments that support successful goal pursuit. From there, it’s the work of good policy and good leader- ship to set the stage.”
Associate Professor of Public Policy and Psychology Sophie Trawalter runs the So- cial Cognition and Behavior Lab (SCABL), which studies phenomena related to social diversity. Specifically, the lab studies how people navigate intergroup contact, focus- ing on how social identity affects physiolo- gy, thoughts, feelings and behavior in inter- group contexts. The aim of this work is to develop viable ways to help individuals cope with the challenges of intergroup interac- tions and diversity more generally.
All of the Batten labs work together. This allows them to investigate topics collabora- tively, and to share research and resources. Research labs of this nature may be a com- mon requirement for psychology departments, but not for schools of public policy— except when it comes to Batten.