Fake pub will test drinking habits in South Bank University study

London psychology department creates elaborate set to help understand our relationship with alcohol

From the flock wallpaper, bar stools and beer pumps, it looks like a regular, if a little dated, local.

Except this is a Big Brother-esque bar where a drinker’s every move is captured on camera to be scrutinised and analysed in the name of research.

Room J-407, on the fourth floor of London South Bank university’s main block, is an elaborate set, built at a cost of £20,000 by the psychology department; a lab bar, where customers are guinea pigs and the contents of bottles are definitely not what it says on the label. As for its cheery bar staff, they are all psychology students researching the effects of alcohol on behaviour.

Bar labs have been used for conducting research at a handful of US universities, but this is thought to be the first in the UK.

Dr Tony Moss, head of psychology, recreated the feel of a proper pub in order to test reactions in as authentic a setting as possible but where conditions could be completely controlled.

Lighting, music, even the pre-recorded background chatter played through hidden speakers, go toward convincing those participating in experiments that they are in a real bar, “rather than in a lab room with four grey walls”, said Dr Daniel Frings, senior lecturer in psychology. It even smells like one, as glasses are lightly rubbed with a small quantity of ethanol.

Order up a beer, however, and you may end up with a placebo.

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