Trick or treat for science: Kids become test subjects – BY AMINA KHAN REPORTING FROM NEW HAVEN, CONN. October, 31, 2013

Sisters Gabi, left, and Maya Karlan in costume for Halloween. They cannot be subjects of their father’s studies. (Karlan family)

Behavioral economists are taking advantage of Halloween’s steady stream of young doorbell ringers, using them to gain insight into kids’ thinking and development. They’re paid in candy, of course.

Each year, Halloween is a massive operation at Dean Karlan’s house, drawing in members of his family, particularly his 13-year-old daughter, Maya.

Maya’s enthusiasm for Halloween knows few bounds. She makes her own costumes: a castle with a working drawbridge, a full-color traffic light with a flashlight inside to switch signals. She’s been known to spend the whole year thinking about her next get-up.

“Normally I plan my Halloween costumes the day after Halloween,” Maya said. “I get very excited.”

But this year, the bubbly eighth-grader is giving up her trick-or-treat time — and her idea of dressing as a toaster — to help out at home, where the real action is.

At Maya’s house, the children marching inexorably through the darkness toward the promised candy will get their treats. But as they climb the creaking stairs of the Karlans’ porch, they’ll also do something else: become test subjects in a one-night science experiment.

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