Studying Human Behavior —  at a Museum?

Studying Human Behavior — at a Museum?

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Most of us resolve to exercise more or eat healthier, but it’s hard to get our behavior to conform to our goals. Mindworks — a combination research lab and science museum in the heart of downtown Chicago — may be able to help. 

“Mindworks uses interactive exhibits to make vivid the science of beliefs, judgments, and choices,” says Mark Temelko, director of operations and external relations at the Roman Family Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. 

The University of Chicago’s Mindworks, located at 224 S. Michigan Ave., opened in 2021 and has drawn 45,000 visitors from more than 70 countries.

The museum-lab uses games and other activities alongside insights from neuroscience to “help you understand and improve your life,” Temelko says. Participants earn prizes, such as books, tote bags, and gift cards.

Scientists benefit, too. “Researchers hope to attract a large and diverse audience to learn about — and contribute to — behavioral science,” Temelko adds.

Some Mindworks attendees turn into study participants. Sourcing study subjects from a tourist-heavy spot enables UChicago behavioral researchers to tap into a more diverse pool of participants than at campus labs, which mainly draw college students, Temelko says.

More inclusive research could “create more effective solutions” to problems — such as public health challenges — that require people to change their behavior, says 

Ted Robertson, a behavioral scientist in New York. 

Above photo: ©Tom Rossiter
Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2024 print issue.