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Does Mood Change How We Organize Digital Files?

  • Author(s): Massey, Charlotte
  • Advisor(s): Whittaker, Stephen J
  • et al.
Abstract

Retrieving files from one’s computer is done daily and is an essential part of completing most tasks at work, yet surprisingly little research has examined the ways that people structure and organize their files. Management of personal digital information is a challenging task that users approach idiosyncratically. Large individual differences have been observed in the types of hierarchies people generate to organize their digital files, and our understanding of these differences is still extremely limited. This thesis presents two studies testing whether some of these organizational differences can be attributed to changes in mood. Positive moods are associated with flexible and creative thinking styles, and negative mood with systematic and analytical processing. Throughout the day most individuals will experience a variety of emotions and fluctuations in mood. We predicted that these mood differences will modify how people organize their personal digital information. We explored this relationship between information management and mood by asking participants to complete an in-lab digital filing simulation after experiencing an emotionally charged stimulus. As predicted, sad participants made significantly more folders than happy participants, and there is a trending relationship between sad mood and deeper folder depth. However, we found no evidence to suggest that retrieval success was affected by either the mood induced during the initial file organization, the mood induced in the file retrieval task, or the relationship between organization and retrieval moods. In a follow up study, we explored the relationship between trait emotional tendencies and real world PIM strategies. We found no evidence that participants’ trait emotional tendencies were related to their average number folders or folder depth in their personal computer.

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