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Experience Sampling and Day Evaluations


The present research examines two distinct features of the lived day of 384 undergraduates. In the first study, we investigated how well individuals remember their daily activities, the ways in which activities were misremembered, if different kinds of activities were remembered differently, and if individual differences are related to the ways in which a person remembers (or misremembers) their daily activities. In the second study we explored the ways in which the experience of affect throughout the day is related to affective evaluation of the day.

Retrospective assessments of behavior are the preferred method of data collection when the goal is to capture all behaviors. Prior research has outlined the discrepancies between experience sampling (ES) and retrospective recall of states, the current project looked at the discrepancies between these methods for reporting activities throughout the day. Participants reported what they were doing in the moment throughout the day, and in the evening retrospectively recalled their activities for each hour of that day. Nearly 75% of daily activities were recalled accurately. The remaining activities were remembered at the wrong time (13%), appear to be confabulated (10%) or were inaccurate for other reasons (2%). Being in class or at work, which are scheduled activities often with strictly enforced start and end times, were the most accurately remembered activities. While participants misremember sleeping, shopping, recreating and housework, confabulating what they were doing when retrospectively recalling these activities. Individual difference variables were not related to how participants remembered their activities.

The second feature of the day that was explored was how the affective experience of the day relates to evaluations of the day. Various research projects have suggested that the average affect, maximum affect, affect in the final moments, or the average between the maximum and final affect are most meaningful (e.g. Hedges, Jandorf, & Stone, 1985; Kahneman, Fredrickson, Schreiber, & Redelmeier, 1993; Parkinson, Briner, Reynolds, & Totterdell, 1995). The current project found that when reporting on their day, each measure describing lived experience is nearly equally predictive of the affective evaluations of the day. This was the case for both positive and negative affect. These affective measures correlated appropriately with the content of day evaluations, and the various measures of affect throughout the day have similar profiles and external correlates.

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