University builds fake pub to study drinkers17th February, 2014 by Lauren Eads
A London university has built a £20,000 high-tech fake pub so that psychology students can study the effects of alcohol on behaviour.
The elaborate set up has been installed at the London South Bank University (LSBU) by its psychology department, according to a report in The Guardian.
The high-tech observation station was built at a cost of £20,000 on the fourth floor of LSBU’s main building and boasts CCTV cameras, authentic lighting, music and even the pre-recorded background chatter played through hidden speakers to help convince participants that they are in a real bar.
Even the glasses are lightly rubbed with a small quantity of ethanol to create the smell of a pub.
Fake bar labs have been used to conduct research at a number of US universities, but this is thought to be the first in the UK.
Dr Tony Moss, head of psychology at LSBU, wanted to recreate the feel of a proper pub to test reactions in as authentic a setting as possible, but where conditions could be controlled.
“The glass will smell of alcohol, but whether there is any actual alcohol in the drink will depend,” said Dr Moss, who specialises in the cognitive aspects of addiction and the application of decision theory for understanding the onset, maintenance and offset of addictive behaviours; research he says is crucial in gaining better understanding of why, and how, people drink.
Every experiment has to be approved by the university’s ethics committee with the amount of alcohol dispensed carefully controlled up to the drink-drive limit.
Props include a fruit machine, to test risk-taking behaviour, wire loop games to test hand eye co-ordination with plans to install a juke box to test the effects of different types of music on drinking behaviour.
Hidden CCTV cameras record every move made by the labs guinea pigs and relay it in real time to students in nearby rooms, while mobile eye tracers – where participants wear Google glass type equipment – will monitor precisely where a person is looking.
This it is hoped will help determine whether people actually look at and read posters with information about how to safely consume alcohol,
Dr Moss said: “It is not the sort of research you can conduct in a real pub. There are too many other influences and a lack of experimental control. “The beer pumps, too, are a prop. They are not hooked up to actual beer kegs.
“We are not going to be serving beer every single day and it goes off fairly quickly.”