Comparability of emotion dynamics derived from Ecological Momentary Assessments, daily diaries, and the Day Reconstruction Method: observational study.

General Information

Comparability of emotion dynamics derived from Ecological Momentary Assessments, daily diaries, and the Day Reconstruction Method: observational study.
Stefan Schneider, Doerte Junghaenel, Tania Gutsche, Hio Wa Mak and Arthur Stone
Publication Type
Journal paper
Journal of Medical Internet Research
Background: Interest in the measurement of the temporal dynamics of people’s emotional lives has risen substantially in psychological and medical research. Emotions fluctuate and change over time, and measuring the ebb and flow of people’s affective experiences promises enhanced insights into people’s health and functioning. Researchers have used a variety of intensive longitudinal assessment (ILA) methods to create measures of emotion dynamics, including ecological momentary assessments (EMAs), end-of-day (EOD) diaries, and the day reconstruction method (DRM). To date, it is unclear whether they can be used interchangeably or whether ostensibly similar emotion dynamics captured by the methods differ in meaningful ways.

Objective: This study aims to examine the extent to which different ILA methods yield comparable measures of intraindividual emotion dynamics.

Methods: Data from 90 participants aged 50 years or older were collected in a probability-based internet panel, the Understanding America Study, and analyzed. Participants provided positive and negative affect ratings using 3 ILA methods: (1) smartphone-based EMA, administered 6 times per day over 1 week, (2) web-based EOD diaries, administered daily over the same week, and (3) web-based DRM, administered once during that week. We calculated 11 measures of emotion dynamics (addressing mean levels, variability, instability, and inertia separately for positive and negative affect, as well as emotion network density, mixed emotions, and emotional dialecticism) from each ILA method. The analyses examined mean differences and correlations of scores addressing the same emotion dynamic across the ILA methods. We also compared the patterns of intercorrelations among the emotion dynamics and their relationships with health outcomes (general health, pain, and fatigue) across ILA methods.

Results: Emotion dynamics derived from EMAs and EOD diaries demonstrated moderate-to-high correspondence for measures of mean emotion levels (ρ≥0.95), variability (ρ≥0.68), instability (ρ≥0.51), mixed emotions (ρ=0.92), and emotional dialecticism (ρ=0.57), and low correspondence for measures of inertia (ρ≥0.17) and emotion network density (ρ=0.36). DRM-derived measures showed correlations with EMAs and EOD diaries that were high for mean emotion levels and mixed emotions (ρ≥0.74), moderate for variability (ρ=0.38-.054), and low to moderate for other measures (ρ=0.03-0.41). Intercorrelations among the emotion dynamics showed high convergence across EMAs and EOD diaries, and moderate convergence between the DRM and EMAs as well as EOD diaries. Emotion dynamics from all 3 ILA methods produced very similar patterns of relationships with health outcomes.

Conclusions: EMAs and EOD diaries provide corresponding information about individual differences in various emotion dynamics, whereas the DRM provides corresponding information about emotion levels and (to a lesser extent) variability, but not about more complex emotion dynamics. Our results caution researchers against viewing these ILA methods as universally interchangeable.