modifications could be made to increase its value. Examples of possible modifications to consider include

•  Split sample surveys—one half the respondents could receive one question while the other half gets another; this would be useful for testing such things as sensitivity to different scales and question wording.17

•  Finding the optimal number of activities to ask about. It is not obvious that three activities is the optimal number of activities to include on the module. It may be useful to ask about hedonic well-being associated with more activities in order to increase the reliability of daily estimates. Importantly, sampling more episodes increases the power to examine activity-specific effects, which may be particularly valuable for addressing policy questions. Doubling or even tripling the number of episodes may be cost-effective, although that benefit would have to weighed against considerations of participant burden and the potential impact on response rates.

•  Selecting the “right” positive and negative emotion adjectives for module questions. Research supports the separation of positive and negative states but, more generally, should the module be focused more on suffering or happiness. The module could experiment with different adjectives and how interpretation varies across populations.

•  Expanding coverage to pain and other sensations. There are no good conceptual criteria for differentiating between sensations and “pure” emotional states or for how the two link together. Intuitively, sensations are principally physiological states, in contrast to such feelings as anxiety, stress, and joy, which are principally subjective states.

•  Additional or replacement questions for consideration. A possible example is adding a question or two about sleep, such as: “How many hours of sleep do you usually get during the week?” or “How many hours of sleep do you usually get on weekends?” The objective of such questions would be to find out if respondents’ reports about behaviors/emotions—feeling happy, tired, stressed, sad, pain—are influenced by (chronic) sleep deprivation or other sleep patterns.18 A methodological question is how well do people recall the previous night’s sleep?

•  Selecting among competing evaluative measures. Is the current Cantril approach, which is perhaps the most remote from affect measures, optimal? Alternative versions of the evaluative measure are common in the literature.

It would also be interesting to make modifications to the SWB module so that day-of-week effects could be tested for different domains—health, education, transportation, etc.


17In its well-being survey, the United Kingdom’s Office of National Statistics has used, or plans to use, split trials to test for such things as sensitivity to different scales, question wording, and order and placement of questions.

18This idea was raised by Mathias Basner, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, who noted that self-assessments of habitual sleep time overestimate physiological sleep time and that estimates of habitual sleep time based on ATUS overestimate self-assessments of habitual sleep times found in other population studies. Therefore, he suggested that it would be “very elucidating” to compare self-assessments of sleep time for the two questions above against estimates based on ATUS responses for the day before the interview day.

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