Cell phones to provide picture of human interaction

Nov 24, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Cell phones to their ears, a team of research participants will report their interpersonal interactions in real time to provide a better view of human behavior thanks to a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Aging as part of the National Institutes of Health's American Recover and Reinvestment Act funding.

Participants will submit data after every significant interaction lasting five minutes or longer, for three straight weeks. The Penn State researchers want a detailed description of how emotions, physical health and personal interactions affect each other throughout the day.

The study will reach new heights in data collection frequency and test new data collection technology. Rather than fill out questionnaires, which can be tedious, participants will submit data via with touch screen displays and an application that prompts them with questions on the spot. This will allow participants to reflect on their interactions within minutes.

Studies that collect data once per day, or less, rely on participants' memories that can be inaccurate. In contrast, the data collected in this study should capture a more accurate and detailed "moving picture" of people's lives, said Nilam Ram, assistant professor of human development and family studies, Penn State, and principal investigator of the study.

"We're hoping to develop technology that can be used to better understand the intricacies of ," Ram said.

Participants will be reporting on their perceptions of health including their general, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health; emotions including whether an interaction made them feel angry, happy, sad, etc., and interpersonal behavior including actions they engaged in during the interaction and whether they perceived the other person as cold or friendly, dominant or submissive.

Ram and his research team will also apply new statistical techniques that they hope will better describe the variability in individuals' behaviors.

"Current analytical approaches require us to make strong assumptions about people," said Ram. "For instance, no family has 2.3 children, but that's the average we always hear about and use as the basis for predicting behavior. The statistical methods we're developing should help tailor theories so that they more accurately describe individuals and their own unique idiosyncrasies. So we should be able to say, 'this family has three children' or 'this family has no children.'"

Ram hopes that these approaches will eventually be able to refine existing prevention programs, such as those used to help people overcome addictions.

"If we can see patterns in an individual's behavior -- for instance, if a person automatically goes for a drink when something stresses them out -- we might be able to tailor messages to his or her specific pattern and head them off or at least shift them onto a path that will promote more positive, healthy growth," says Ram.

Provided by Pennsylvania State University (news : web)

Explore further: New compounds protect nervous system from the structural damage of MS

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Caregivers may benefit from adult day care

Jun 30, 2009

Caring for an elderly family member can be stressful and can pose health threats to caregiver givers. Steven Zarit, professor and head, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Penn State, received a $3 million ...

Study shows family lifestyles influence adolescents' weight

Dec 10, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new Penn State study shows that family lifestyle has a significant impact on teenagers’ weight. Children are heavier if their families skip or miss some meals, such as breakfast, or if their families ...

Money makes the heart grow less fond... but more hardworking

Jul 09, 2008

Money is a necessity: it provides us with material objects that are important for survival and for entertainment, and it is often used as a reward. But recent studies have shown that money is not only a device for gaining ...

Linguistics may be clue to emotions

Jan 20, 2005

Words may be a clue to how people, regardless of their language, think about and process emotions, according to a Penn State researcher. "It has been suggested in the past that all cultures have in common a small number of ...

Smoking, teens and their parents: New research

Nov 24, 2008

A new study found that adolescents were at the greatest risk of smoking when their parents began smoking at an early age and the parents' smoking quickly reached high levels and persisted over time.

Recommended for you

Mystery of the reverse-wired eyeball solved

Feb 27, 2015

From a practical standpoint, the wiring of the human eye - a product of our evolutionary baggage - doesn't make a lot of sense. In vertebrates, photoreceptors are located behind the neurons in the back of the eye - resulting ...

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

Feb 27, 2015

Researchers have for the first time successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight ...

Quality control for adult stem cell treatment

Feb 27, 2015

A team of European researchers has devised a strategy to ensure that adult epidermal stem cells are safe before they are used as treatments for patients. The approach involves a clonal strategy where stem cells are collected ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.