Investigating Incidents of Emotion in Daily Life Using the Technique of Structured Diaries

Duncan, Elaine (1992) Investigating Incidents of Emotion in Daily Life Using the Technique of Structured Diaries. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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I present a method of recording emotions in structured diaries. For each incident of emotion that is sufficiently salient to notice in the course of daily life people are asked to note its characteristics on a page structured like a questionnaire. In the first study, which saw, the launch of the diary a total of 57 students each recorded five incidents of emotion, looking out specifically for happiness, sadness, anger and fear. In a second study in which I addressed some of the problems that were encountered in the first study 47 people randomly selected from two occupational groups each recorded four incidents of emotion, looking out happiness, sadness, anger, fear and on this occasion also disgust. Happiness was the most frequent emotion for the students, but anger was the most frequent for employed people. There were few differences in emotions as a function of gender. Emotions were typically caused by goal-relevant events. In agreement with Oatley and Johnson-Laird's (1987) theory, around 1 in 20 incidents of four basic emotions (happiness, sadness, anger and fear) occurred for reasons that the experiencer was not aware of. Emotions that depend for their definition on knowing something about the context, like embarrassment, shame and jealousy were not experienced without the subject knowing what caused them. This was established in a study utilizing a different version of the diary where the incidence of anger, a basic emotion was compared to that of the complex emotions named above. In all studies reports of mixtures of emotions were common, occurring in more than a third of all incidents. In one of several applied projects, diaries were administered to a sample of psychiatric patients and a comparison sample of patients with organic gastro-intestinal disease. The diaries were administered followed by semi-structured interviews to obtain more details about each incident of emotion. In comparison with the organic gastro-intestinal patients, psychiatric patients had more episodes of emotion that they were not able fully to understand, and more incidents that reminded them of comparable emotion incidents in the past. Using the same methods the obtained emotions of these organic gastro-intestinal patients were compared to non-organic gastro-intestinal patients to test the proposal that a different pattern would emerge in these two groups as to how they experienced anxiety and anger. There were few quantitative differences, in such elements as duration, intensity, but qualitative differences were apparent, with respect to the effects of emotions on the self-image of the non-organic patients. This thesis also includes a study solely devoted to investigating the characteristics of hatred and disgust. One reason for a study of this nature is that there is a dearth of psychological literature concerning these emotions. Secondly, there were relatively few episodes of disgust or hatred recorded by my subjects using the diary method. Thus a semi-structured interview method was employed to inform of the nature of these emotions and stimulate further research. Although diaries need to be validated by other methods based on behavioral observation and physiological responses, self-reports are useful, perhaps essential, for understanding emotions. Structured diaries offer a way of beginning to investigate the epidemiology of normal and abnormal emotions. Diaries allow recording of incidents of emotion of the kind that people discuss, and give causal status to, in their explanations of their own and others' behaviour.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Social psychology
Date of Award: 1992
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1992-78423
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2020 12:09
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2020 12:09

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