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Cell Phones to Provide Picture of Human Interaction

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teens with cellphone

"The statistical methods we're developing should help tailor theories so that they more accurately describe individuals and their own unique idiosyncrasies," says Nilam Ram, assistant professor of human development and family studies at Penn State, and pr


Pennsylvania State University (PSU) researchers are studying how emotions, physical health, and personal interactions affect individuals and those they interact with over the course of the day using real-time reports of interpersonal interactions. Study participants will submit data after every significant interaction lasting five minutes or longer over the course of three weeks. Participants submit the data on smartphones with touch-screen displays and applications that provide questions on the spot, enabling participants to reflect on their interactions immediately. The study should provide a more accurate and detailed "moving picture" of people's lives, says PSU professor Nilam Ram.

Participants report on their perceived health status, including general, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal health; emotions they feel as a result of their interactions; and interpersonal behavior. Ram says the study could be used to help refine prevention programs, such as those used to help 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," Ram says.

From Penn State Live
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