The Daily Life Study: How Survey Methods Change Self-Reports

  • Michelle Eisenkraft


Two studies were conducted. The first study examined the impact of survey methods on self-reports. Participants were put into Retrospection or No Retrospection conditions, within the Diary, Panel, or Cross-Section conditions. Participants within each condition completed diaries with differing frequencies. Within the diary conditions, participants were put into a "Test" condition and told that the researchers were studying students' daily lives leading up to midterms, or a "Neutral" condition and told that the investigators were studying students' daily lives. Differences between conditions were measured based on "negative emotions" (depression and anxiety). Participants completing diaries most frequently reported lower levels of negative emotion than students completing diaries less frequently, and participants in the Test condition reported higher levels of negative emotion compared to participants in the Neutral condition. The second study examined participants' accuracy in retrospective weekly self-reports, focusing on participants in the Retrospective Diary condition and comparing daily self-reports of time spent in activities to weekly estimates of average time spent in the same activities. There were significant differences in participants' average hours spent in class, and marginally significant differences in hours spent sleeping and studying. Results from these studies can help social scientists gain understanding of how participants complete self-reports, and have implications for research that requires self-reports.


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