Considering the ‘With Whom’: Differences Between Event- and Signal-Contingent ESM Data of Person-Specific Social Interactions



Experience sampling studies often aim to capture social interactions. A central methodological question in such studies is whether to use event- or signal-contingent sampling. The little existing research on this issue has not taken into account that social interactions occur with unique interaction partners (e.g., Anna or Tom). We analyze one week of social interaction data of 286 students from the University of Pittsburgh (60.8% male, mean age 19.2 years), taking into account the unique interaction partners of each student. Specifically, we investigate the differences between event- and signal contingent sampling in (1) the total number of unique interaction partners captured, as well as (2) the kinds of relationships, and (3) the quality of social interactions with these captured interaction partners. Apart from a larger quantity of interactions and unique interaction partners in the event-contingent sampling design, our analyses indicate subtle differences between the two designs when aiming to assess social interactions with more distant interaction partners, such as coworkers or strangers. Most importantly, in our analyses, specific interaction partners and social roles explained a considerable amount of variance in the quality of social interactions (up to 20.5%), suggesting that future research would benefit greatly from considering “with whom” individuals interact.
Date made available9-Apr-2024

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