Home Science Breaks taken during psych experiments lower participants’ moods

Breaks taken during psych experiments lower participants’ moods

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Klaus Wedfeldt

An unfortunate feature of science is that two experiments that ostensibly look at the same thing can produce different results. The varied results are often hailed as unhelpful, and the experimenter, sometimes even the entire field, is accused of being garbage. It is to consider whether it is possible. If not, whether they can tell us what the difference is.

A new study published in Nature Human Behavior explains how some psychological experiments can be nuanced. Forcing a break can make people feel worse, and prolonged breaks can keep them down. And since mood influences behavior in a variety of other psychological tests, this could have complex implications for a vast range of studies.

Waiting is the hardest

The work began with an incredibly simple discovery. Most studies operate under the assumption that participants’ moods remain relatively stable throughout the experiment. However, the researchers here asked participants to rate their mood at the beginning and end of the experiment, i.e. at the beginning and end of the break between experiments. The researchers found that they felt fairly consistently depressed during the break. bottom.

At this point, the researchers decided it would be worth looking into an effect called ‘mood drift over time’. We have taken various steps to ensure the quality of our research, including participation. Overall, about 30,000 participants, both adults and adolescents, participated in these experiments.

Some of these tests ruled out the possibility that repeated questions about mood made people feel worse. No matter how they asked, the mood worsened. They also got mood samples from many people who played the risk-taking game on their mobile app. I was doing it for the sake of the game, so the effect was small, but people were still depressed when told to wait between games.

One example that did not make people feel worse was taking a mandatory break telling people they could go out for seven minutes and do whatever they wanted. , were very small, such as skimming through prominently featured news, but were sufficient to avoid statistically significant changes in participants’ moods.


The final result suggests that it was not the lack of activity that bothered people, but the loss of agency. Loss of agency is also a factor in boredom, and appears to explain the decline in mood. However, it was shown that the former did not fully explain the latter.

By examining participants who participated in more than one of these studies, the researchers also found that the magnitude of mood drift was fairly consistent over time, suggesting that the effect was at least partially It suggests the possibility of a stable personality trait.

Finally, researchers have shown that this spills over into behavioral testing. There are many tests that measure risk tolerance. Tests can implement high odds/low payoff combinations or high risk/high payoff gambling. Using one of these tests, researchers found that people were less likely to gamble after experiencing mood swings.

Overall, researchers present their study as a caution. There is a wide range of behaviors that are influenced by our overall mood, many of which may be the subject of experiments. This means that the exact structure of may influence the results of these experiments. In other words, it may explain why two seemingly similar studies yield different results.

It could also go a long way in explaining why people hate being forced sitting still in the room.

Nature Human Behavior, 2023. DOIs: 10.1038/s41562-023-01519-7 (About DOIs).

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