People are dynamic and they live and find themselves in (social) environments that can strongly differ for each moment. This affects the way we feel and act at that moment. But how can we measure these daily changes? We do that with an online diary study. Multiple times a day, and multiple days in a row, participants receive a pop-up message to fill in a couple of questions on their mobile phone.
The big advantage of such a ‘daily study’ is that we can measure human behaviour and feelings in realtime and in the social environment they find themselves in. The realtime measurements prevent that people have to fill in questions about the past and reduce the chances of false memories. We simply ask: How lonely do you feel at this moment? Or: How energetic are you at this moment?
Because we ask these type of questions multiple times a day, we get insight in a large amount of measurements within one person. That is interesting as it gives us information about small deviations in mood and behaviour during the day. It helps us answer questions like: What is the effect of a strong changing mood during the day on later behaviour or self-confidence?
The positive aspect of this method is that you can analyse ‘within’ a person, as a score of 4 (on a 10 point scale) might be a high score for person X (as person X might always score a 1 or 2). Whereas a score of 4 can be very low for person Y (as person Y mostly scores 8 or 9). With this method we are able to add significance to individual patterns of changes in mood within a day or week.
With help of the Healthy Brain Study we are able to answer the questions mentioned above, but also questions like: In what social contexts do people feel more lonely (at work, being with friends, being at home with their family, when online)? The relation how stress is related to individual differences in changes in mood is also something that can be assessed. In short, this is a very important part of the study.
Dr. M. Verhagen, Associate Professor | Behavioural Science Institute | Radboud University