A comparison of signal- and event-contingent ambulatory assessment of interpersonal behavior and affect in social situations.

Ambulatory assessment (e.g., ecological momentary assessment) is now widely used in psychological research, yet key design decisions remain largely informed by methodological lore as opposed to systematic inquiry. The present study experimentally tested whether signal- (e.g., random prompt) and event- (e.g., complete a survey every time a target event occurs) contingent recording procedures of interpersonal behavior and affect in social situations yield equivalent quality and quantity of data. Participants (N = 286) completed baseline questionnaires, underwent cluster randomization to either a signal- or event-contingent condition, and then completed 1 week of ambulatory assessment, during which they answered questions about their social behavior and affect tied to their social interactions. Conditions were compared on response frequency, means and variances of interpersonal behavior and affect, correlations between interpersonal behavior and affect within-subject, and associations between momentary behavior and affect and baseline variables (e.g., Big Five traits). Results indicated that signal- and event-contingent recording techniques provided equivalent data quality, suggesting that researchers can use the 2 methodologies interchangeably to draw conclusions about means, variances, and associations when examining social interactions. However, results also showed that event-contingent recording returned, on average, a higher number of reported social interactions per individual, and this was true for most time periods of the day. Thus, event-contingent recording may hold advantages for studying frequency and timing of social interactions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)