The Center for Behavioral Political Economy, located in the Social and Behavioral Sciences building at Stony Brook University, held its grand opening on Monday, Nov. 17. It is “a research center for faculty and students to study economic and political decision making,” said CBPE Director and Stony Brook political science professor Matthew Lebo.
While anyone can partake in the experiments, the center is going to be very helpful for graduate students seeking their Ph.D., Lebo said. Graduate students can do research in there, running experiments to write about for scholarly publications.
Lebo said that only “four or five…maybe a few more” behavioral economics centers like Stony Brook’s exist in the United States, making Stony Brook’s CBPE extremely rare.
Another rarity within the CBPE is the cross between departments. Lebo said the center has faculty from a number of different departments, including the Department of Political Science and the College of Business working in and around the center that will help with the research center operate.
Undergraduate students will also have a few opportunities to do research in the CBPE. However, the CBPE will help undergraduates more with gaining academic credit and cash than anything else, Lebo said.
After participating in Game Theory experiments, individuals will be paid a certain amount based on their decisions throughout the experimental game. Doctorate courses in political science, like Game Theory and Public Choice, will also be offered in the center.
The grand opening included speakers such as Stony Brook University Provost Dennis Assanis and keynote speaker Professor Raymond Duch from Nuffield College at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
Assanis said in his address he chose the proposal for the CBPE over numerous other proposals because it was the most “promising” proposal available at the time. He described the opening of the center as “a joyous occasion.”
The opening of the CBPE turned what used to be a “crappy classroom” into a “wonderful laboratory,” Assanis said. The center, which contains 30 computers, was paid for by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The CBPE not only brought something unique to Stony Brook through the rarity of the center itself, but also through “intellectual expansion,” Assanis said.
Assanis said the center allows numerous knowledgeable individuals and professors from separate departments who usually would not work beside one another to come together.
The Provost also claimed the center contributed to the recent growth in Stony Brook faculty members. He wished the research center luck and said he hopes it can put Stony Brook “on the map with behavioral economy.”
Duch, who heads a similar center at Nuffield College in Oxford University, said he wishes Stony Brook “all the best” and advises his friend Lebo that being the director will be “a challenge, but beneficial.” He spoke about the rarity of research done specifically on behavioral political economy and discussed what behavioral economy has grown from, with its foundation being political psychology.
Duch said he knows from experience as director of the Centre for Experimental Social Sciences at Nuffield College that experimental social sciences such as political psychology and behavioral economics are becoming “essential” in the world, and that in this day and age they are a “worthwhile investment.”
The CBPE is now open, and students can sign up for paid experiments in the laboratory by creating an account on Sona Systems via the CBPE website. Lebo said that he hopes the Center for Behavioral Political Economy, along with its “18 or 19 dedicated faculty members” will create research that will help train students to become experts and leaders in their field. The center is located in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Building, room S736.