Marriott Alumni Magazine

Fall 2012

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Inside the Classroom Understanding Consumers’ Minds After standing on one foot while trying to decide which printer to buy, students hobble out of 340 TNRB with some extra credit but without the slightest clue what their answers will be used for. The Marketing and Behavioral Research Lab, one of the Tanner Building’s newest additions, helps students learn the ins and outs of research. Inside the lab, undergraduate research assistants administer tests, surveys, and other objective activities designed by professors. “The studies introduce students to academic research,” says Jeff Larson, an assistant professor of marketing. “We have several students applying for PhDs every year. Many of them discovered that interest by participating in some of these studies.” In the study where participants stood on one foot, they were asked to decide which printer they’d buy: the first was fast and expensive, the second was average speed for an average price, and the third was cheap and slow. The majority of times the students chose the middle option. This research was looking at how physical experiences affect how consumers evaluate a product. By balancing on one foot, participants were more likely to pick the option with uniform attributes. Students sign up for studies in which they would like to participate, earning extra credit points or a few dollars. In most of the studies, the student participants don’t know the research topic. “It would ruin future studies if we told them,” Larson says. Before the marketing lab was completed in 2011, studies were conducted in various classrooms. The lab changed that—adding greater professionalism and consistency to the research. It also introduced new high-tech tools for studies, including voice recognition software and an eye-tracking device to follow a subject’s eye movement. The lab has a license to use Qualtrics software, created by former Marriott School professor Scott Smith, for online data collection and analysis. “The lab gives students an opportunity to be experimenters and participants,” says Darron Billeter, marketing professor and chair of the lab’s steering committee. “At many other universities, primary research is done by graduate students. Here, mostly undergraduate students are conducting research. They have exposure to scientific inquiry, how experiments are conducted, and the tools used.” Brady Hodges, a senior with a double major in marketing and Chinese from Idaho Falls, Idaho, says the experience he has had in the lab is invaluable. He is currently writing a study of his own that he hopes will be administered this fall. “The lab is a great opportunity to get hands-on experience in research as I prepare for a PhD,” Hodges says. “I get ideas while I’m participating in studies and running them. I see things in subjects that spark new thoughts.” Many of the results that come out of the lab offer interesting insights into the mind of the consumer. “A big part of academia is conducting research and adding to the knowledge pool,” Billeter says. “The lab allows our faculty to be engaged in testing their theories, writing articles, and contributing to new thought and dialogue.”

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