Social Science Experimental Laboratory

The Social Science Experimental Laboratory (SSEL) at NYU Abu Dhabi is an interdisciplinary center where experimental research in the social sciences is conducted. Our aim is to create mutually beneficial relationships with local universities, organizations, and the wider community by offering their members a useful opportunity to participate in social science research activities. This animation demonstrates how social science researchers use the lab.

Enriching Academics

SSEL offers students across the UAE an opportunity to enrich their academic and research experience and inform their career paths by engaging them in the research process. This experience is critical in helping students select graduate programs and informing their career paths. By having the community participate in SSEL studies, researchers at NYUAD are able to conduct effective and regionally relevant experiments. Participation in SSEL experiments is also open to the entire NYUAD community as well as employees of organizations and the public.


SSEL has two laboratories — Lab A and Lab B —  located in building A6 in NYUAD's Saadiyat Island Campus. Each Lab has 24 shielded desktop machines. SSEL also has 24 laptops which can be used off campus with permission. The two labs can also be combined into one large lab if needed. Both labs have private areas for experimenters and for paying subjects. Outside the lab is a nice waiting area. SSEL also has a number of staff offices located in A5 on the 1st floor with space for visiting researchers.

The Social Science Experimental Laboratory at NYU Abu Dhabi is an interdisciplinary center conducting behavioral research among populations that have not been extensively studied.

Lab Resources

Zurich Toolbox for Readymade Economic Experiments (z-Tree) is a widely used software for experiments in economics and political science. It is free but requires a license. The Social Science Experimental Laboratory received such license in 2012. Researchers conducting their experiments in SSEL can use different versions of the available software. As z-Tree web site advises, "The sample treatments are probably the easiest way to learn about the new features of z-Tree." The z-Tree tutorial explains through examples some of the most common experiments while still more codes and samples can be found on the internet. The Center of Experimental Social Science at NYU (CESS) created web pages  that offer additional examples.

Participatory Experiments

The basic research tool used at SSEL is laboratory experimentation, in which participants engage in decision-making tasks in order to test theoretical predictions and/or the properties of proposed or existing models of human behavior. Anonymous interaction takes place over a computer network, and participants’ identities are not revealed to others in the lab. Researchers at SSEL do not use deceptive identities or materials; participants are given full information concerning the tasks requested of them and all studies must satisfy the SSEL protocol. Participants may withdraw from an experiment at any point in time.

SSEL also supports lab-in-the-field experimentation, with a portable laboratory, as well as traditional survey and field experimentation. SSEL is open to experimentalists from all social sciences and encourages collaborators from economics, political science, sociology, and public policy.

Participant Pool

SSEL currently has a participant pool with approximately 500 members which continues to expand. Apart from the NYUAD community, our members so far have included students from the following universities:

  • Canadian University Dubai (CUD)
  • Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS) Abu Dhabi
  • Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS) Sharjah
  • Heriot Watt University, Dubai
  • Manipal University, Dubai
  • SZABIST Dubai