ArticlePDF Available

A Survey Method for Characterizing Daily Life Experience: The Day Reconstruction Method



The Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) assesses how people spend their time and how they experience the various activities and settings of their lives, combining features of time-budget measurement and experience sampling. Participants systematically reconstruct their activities and experiences of the preceding day with procedures designed to reduce recall biases. The DRM's utility is shown by documenting close correspondences between the DRM reports of 909 employed women and established results from experience sampling. An analysis of the hedonic treadmill shows the DRM's potential for well-being research. Download link at:
“A Survey Method for Characterizing Daily Life
Experience: The Day Reconstruction Method”
By Daniel Kahneman, Alan B. Krueger, David A. Schkade,
Norbert Schwarz, Arthur A. Stone
Science 3 December 2004:
Vol. 306. no. 5702, pp. 1776 - 1780
In this article, the authors put forward a new method of measuring our
daily affective experiences — our emotions at various moments
throughout our day as we go about daily lif—namely the DMR or the Day
Recostruction Method.
The standard test to date has been the ESM (Experience Sampling
Method), a very labour intensive test.
ESM : Subjects wear beepers, and throughout the day, at irregular
intervals, the beepers go off.
The subjects have to then record what they are doing and with whom,
and what they felt or experienced at the time, given a list of possibilities.
The Technique (IC)
“Respondents first answered demographic and general satisfaction
questions. Next, they were asked to construct a short diary of the previous
day: "Think of your day as a continuous series of scenes or episodes in a
film. Give each episode a brief name that will help you remember it (for
example, `commuting to work', or `at lunch with B'...). Write down the
approximate times at which each episode began and ended. The episodes
people identify usually last between 15 minutes and 2 hours. …..
Next, respondents answered structured questions about each episode:
When it occurred (start and end times); what they were doing (by checking
one or more of 16 activities); where they were; with whom they were
interacting; and how they felt, using 12 affect descriptors, listed in Table 1.
The affect scales ranged from 0 (not at all) to 6 (very much). Finally,
respondents answered questions about their jobs and other personal
Note that 2 different kinds of “happiness” are being measured
in this survey:
Life satisfaction: how happy you are with various aspects of
your life (from the initial questions).
Affective response: the way you feel at a particular moment
(from the reconstruction of your day).
One of the things which the authors are interested in, is
the relation between these two kinds of happiness,
between satisfaction and affect.
Why would you want to do this?
“Evoking the context of the previous day is intended to elicit specific and
recent memories, thereby reducing errors and biases of recall (14, 15).
Experience sampling is the gold standard to which DRM results must be
compared; the DRM is intended to reproduce the information that would be
collected by probing experiences in real time. The new method is more
efficient than ESM: It imposes less respondent burden; does not disrupt
normal activities; and provides an assessment of contiguous episodes over
a full day, rather than a sampling of moments. Finally, the DRM provides
time-budget information, which is not collected effectively in experience
•Easier for the subjects
•Gives a complete picture of the day as opposed to random parts
•Shows how people use their time — how much time is spent on which
“We demonstrate the method with a convenience sample of 1018
employed women, focusing on the subset of 909 who had worked on the
reference day. The questionnaire and methodological details are
available online (16). Completion times for the self-administered
instrument ranged from 45 to 75 min. The ethnic composition of the
sample was 49% white (non-Hispanic), 24% African American, 22%
Hispanic, and 5% other. Average age was 38 years. Average household
income was $54,700.”
Mean affect rating
Positive Negative Competent Impatient Tired Mean hrs/day %Resp.
Intimate relations 5.10 0.36 4.57 0.74 3.09 0.2 0.11
Socializing 4.59 0.57 4.32 1.20 2.33 2.3 0.65
Relaxing 4.42 0.51 4.05 0.84 3.44 2.2 0.77
Pray/worship/meditate 4.35 0.59 4.45 1.04 2.95 0.4 0.23
Eating 4.34 0.59 4.12 0.95 2.55 2.2 0.94
Exercising 4.31 0.50 4.26 1.58 2.42 0.2 0.16
Watching TV 4.19 0.58 3.95 1.02 3.54 2.2 0.75
Shopping 3.95 0.74 4.26 2.08 2.66 0.4 0.30
Preparing food 3.93 0.69 4.20 1.54 3.11 1.1 0.62
On the phone 3.92 0.85 4.35 1.92 2.92 2.5 0.61
Care of my children 3.86 0.91 4.19 1.95 3.56 1.1 0.36
Computer/e-mail/Internet 3.81 0.80 4.57 1.93 2.62 1.9 0.47
Housework 3.73 0.77 4.23 2.11 3.40 1.1 0.49
Working 3.62 0.97 4.45 2.70 2.42 6.9 1.00
Commuting 3.45 0.89 4.09 2.60 2.75 1.6 0.87
Interaction partners
Friends 4.36 0.67 4.37 1.61 2.59 2.6 0.65
Relatives 4.17 0.80 4.17 1.70 3.06 1.0 0.38
Spouse/SO 4.11 0.79 4.10 1.53 3.46 2.7 0.62
Children 4.04 0.75 4.13 1.65 3.40 2.3 0.53
Clients/customers 3.79 0.95 4.65 2.59 2.33 4.5 0.74
Co-workers 3.76 0.92 4.43 2.44 2.35 5.7 0.93
Boss 3.52 1.09 4.48 2.82 2.44 2.4 0.52
Alone 3.41 0.69 3.76 1.73 3.12 3.4 0.90
Duration-weighted mean 3.89 0.84 4.31 2.09 2.90
Some interesting aspects of these results:
•People’s affect tends to be overwhelmingly positive
during the day.
•Although people report that there are certain activities
that they dislike, such as housework and shopping,
most people do not seem to have such a bad time
while actually doing those activities.
•Thus, although childcare ranks about the same as
housework, the housework is (oddly) an
overwhelmingly positive experience.
Negative affect
Here, accuracy of
the DRM is
assessed by
comparing it to the
results of the ESM.
For our purposes,
notice when
women are most
tired and grumpy.
Note: The times of day during which the subjects were most
irritable (early morning) and most tired (tiredness increases
steadily from noon on) coincides when working mothers are at
home with their children.
“They differ in interesting and predictable ways from generic enjoyment ratings of the
same activities. Juster (4) and Flood (9), for example, observed that interactions with
one's children topped the list of enjoyable activities, followed by going on trips, being
with friends, and working at one's job. Grocery shopping and cleaning the house were
rated lowest among 28 activities. In Table 1, taking care of one's children ranks just
above the least enjoyable activities of working, housework, and commuting. The
contrasting results likely reflect the difference between belief-based generic judgments
("I enjoy my kids") and specific episodic reports ("but they were a pain last night"). The
task of judging a category of events evokes instances that are prototypical but not
necessarily typical, and discourages reports of socially inappropriate affect (14). These
deficiencies are attenuated when respondents describe specific episodes, as they do
in the DRM.”
What is the relation of satisfaction to affect? Do they correspond
or are they different?
Do you think that this is the right explanation? That no one wants to
report how little they enjoy their children?
Another Explanation:
Subjects were working mothers who were polled only on work days:
they would have been tired, pressed for time, and irritable during the
hours they spent with their children.
It is unclear what the results would have been if the women had been
polled on the weekends.
What is the effect of personal characteristics on affect during certain
What had an effect upon the affect/emotional experience of the subjects
regardless of activity?
What they found:
a. Personal characteristics such as mild depression or poor sleep
had a pervasive effect on affect.
b. Local features of an interaction such as time pressure or person
with whom you are interacting has a powerful influence on
c. Life circumstances have a relatively small effect on emotional
experience unless one is affected by them in the moment (e.g.
time pressure).
It is clear that the less sleep one
gets, the more tired one is overall,
in roughly the same pattern as
those who sleep more.
The less sleep one gets, the more
tired one is overall, in roughly the
same pattern as those who sleep
The younger the subjects, the more
tired they are when they wake up in
the morning.
Another explanation…
If sleep is a major factor in how much one enjoys one’s activities,
then assuming that young mother’s get less sleep and less
uninterrupted sleep, this would certainly have an affect upon how
much young mother’s enjoyed their children on an average day and
on all their other home activities.
We can assume then, that mothers with young children would have
overall more negative scores for home activities.
However, all of the non-mom activities that young mother’s do—such
as cleaning, shopping, etc. would be averaged with all those non-
mothers in the study (thus lowering the average somewhat). But the
child-related activities are ONLY performed by mothers, so those
activities would not be combined with the somewhat more positive
scores of the non-mothers. Hence, they would have a lower positive
That is, by counting everyone together, we cannot see how mothers’
feel about their time with children; the lesser score could be the effect
of not having enough sleep, not of the activity itself.
And yet another explanation..
What do you think the relation is between life satisfaction with an activity
and emotional reaction to particular instances of the activityI.e. your
satisfaction with your interactions with your children versus your actual
emotional reactions during a given interaction with your children?
Overall Satisfaction Emotional Reaction
Work (well paid Postie) Delivering mail
Work (Criminal Court Judge) Hearing a murder case
Work (minimum wage McD worker) A day at McDonalds
Work (Physician, Doctors without Border) Treating children in Rwanda
Consider the examples below and ask yourself what the differences in
overall satisfaction and moment to moment happiness would be for
people with different kinds of employment.
How would each person rank their overall satisfaction compared to what
each person feels while doing the work-related activity given?
E.g. Might a criminal court judge express high satisfaction and yet not
feel terribly jolly when dealing with an unrepentant murderer?
What does this tell you about the relation
between life satisfaction and individual
emotional reactions?
Could a person be very satisfied with his or her difficult job and yet,while
doing that job, experience some very negative emotions?
Conversely, could a person be very unsatisfied with his or her current job
(and be actively trying to train for something else) and yet, while working,
feel more or less positive?
... In this study, we attempt to identify such a correlation to determine whether high-frequency data can complement the use of survey data, thereby opening up access to continuous behavioural data. Confirming this complementarity also offers the opportunity to deal with inherent problems of survey data such as reporting biases, memory errors, and other potential biases (13)(14)(15); although, the literature on subjective well-being has tried to overcome such biases by applying approaches such as the day reconstruction method (DRM) (16) rather than relying on annually collected data. ...
... Thus, in our study we follow 300 individuals over a period of 24 hours, mapping a total of 5,000 core daily activities and combining those activities with the measurements of their heart rate variability (HRV) and their assessment of subjective wellbeing. As such, we measure the momentary aspect of well-being closer to the activity or daily life experience than does the DRM approach, which relies on respondents to revive their memories of the previous day (16). This means that we rely more heavily on ecological momentary assessment, which reduces errors and biases associated with retrospection such as recall biases or heuristic biases or strategies in general (18). ...
... The simplicity of the protocol in collecting minimal information reduces the burden and facilitates prompt recording of their emotions. Sampling methods that attempt to measure experience and feelings in real time have been criticized for being impractical for large samples (55), especially given the cost, which is often prohibitive (16). ...
Full-text available
Self-reported subjective judgments about well-being, mood, or mental state are at the core of analytical and empirical tools in many social sciences. However, technological advances (particularly in neuroscience) are opening new ways of monitoring physiological processes through non-intrusive means. Such dense continuous data provide new and fruitful avenues for complementing self-reported data with a better understanding of human dynamics and human interactions. Thus, in this study, we follow more than 300 individuals over a period of 24 hours, mapping their core activities (5,000 recorded activities in total) with measurements of their heart rate variability (HRV) and their assessment of subjective hedonic well-being (positive affect). Our results indicate a robust correlation between physiological measurements and self-reported affect. A lower HRV is positively correlated with self-reported positive affect. We also find that physical activities as well as relaxation are important for well-being, no matter what sort of actions follow, increasing positive feelings and inducing positive spillover effects on later endeavours. Individuals also report higher positive feelings prior to performing physical activities, providing new insights on how to harness activity data to extrapolate to the future.
... First, as noted above, experiences are registered as episodic traces and they function as learning trials (McClelland et al., 1995;Nelson & Shiffrin, 2013;Smith & DeCoster, 2000). The second notion highlights the repetitive, quotidian nature of most of our experiences (Kahneman et al., 2004;White & Dolan, 2009). This observation, which is under-appreciated in the autobiographical literature, particularly among Self-centered researchers, is an important one because repeated episodes are rapidly forgotten due to shallow encoding and retroactive interference (Brewer, 1988). ...
In WIREs Cognitive Science In contrast to much theoretical work on the topic, Transition Theory (Brown, 2016, 2021) attempts to account for important aspects of autobiographical memory in a way that emphasizes the structure of experience, rather than the relation between personal-event memories and the Self. This article provides the rationale for adopting this minimalist stance. Here it is argued that: (a) an all-inclusive notion of the Self is of little utility to the study of autobiographical memory because virtually all sentient goal-directed activities can be seen as reflecting the Self, hence, adopting this view provides no bias for predicting event memorability; (b) although some event memories are clearly Self relevant (e.g., life-story events, turning points, self-defining memories), most are not; (c) the formation of and access to Self-knowledge typically does not depend on the availability of specific autobiographical memories; rather, (d) Self-knowledge is generally derived from massive amounts of readily forgotten role-relevant experience
... On the other hand, a few longitudinal studies found a decrease in life satisfaction in oldest old age groups [66,67]. Although some authors have argued that the task of evaluating SWB prompts individuals to focus on the objective circumstances such as wealth index and educational level [68], recent studies have shown an independent association of perceived income adequacy and late life wellbeing [69][70][71]. Consistently, older participants with a self-perceived income insufficiency had higher LSWB in the present study. ...
Full-text available
Background Subjective well-being (SWB) is of particular interest among gerontologists and health researchers with important implications for interventions especially in poor-resource settings. This study aimed to explore the possible pathways from socioeconomic status (SES), functional independence and social capital towards SWB among older adults in India. Methods Cross-sectional data from the “Building a Knowledge Base on Population Aging in India” (BKPAI) survey with a total sample of 9231 older adults aged 60 years and above were used. The outcome variable was low SWB (LSWB). The study used univariate and bivariate analysis for reporting the initial results. Further, the study employed the structural equation modeling (SEM) technique using maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) procedure to estimate the covariance matrix. Results Overall, about 27% of older adults reported LSWB. Reporting LSWB was more prevalent among older adults who had no income (30.8%) and those who had income but not sufficient to fulfil their basic needs (39.4%, p < 0.001). The prevalence of reporting LSWB was significantly higher among older adults who had no asset ownership (36.5%, p < 0.001) than those who had asset ownership. The path from the SEM shows that LSWB and SES are negatively related to each other. Moreover, LSWB had significant negative relationship with independence (β = -0.032, p < 0.001) and social capital (β = -0.020; p < 0.001). In addition, results found a positive relationship between SES and independence (β = 0.019; p < 0.001), SES and social capital (β = 0.016; p < 0.001), and independence and social capital (β = 0.033; p < 0.001). Conclusions The findings highlight that higher SES, good physical functioning as well as favorable social capital are interdependent factors of late-life wellbeing and a multidimensional approach in policymaking can ensure a successful and active ageing among older Indian adults.
... Regarding time, life happiness covers past and present experiences (e.g., having lived wonderful family events) as well as future expectations (e.g., anticipating a satisfactory retirement) (Seibel et al., 2020). Nevertheless, happiness could refer to a more concrete and distinguishable experience associated with a specific moment in time, usually in the past (how a person felt yesterday or today) (Kahneman & Deaton 2010), making it possible to study the variability in happiness over time (Kahneman et al., 2004;Veenhoven, 2021). Anticipatory happiness also has a specific time referent, but it is in the future. ...
... According to the Transition Theory [7,17,19,20], a transition is an event or series of events that causes fundamental changes in the "fabric of daily life"-what people do, where they do it, and with whom. During regular periods, when life is relatively stable, we spend most of our time engaging in mundane activities (e.g., commuting, and socializing) [21,22]. During a transition, this stability is interrupted. ...
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of people’s lives across the globe. It is also unique in the way it changed their lives. In this entry, a framework, the Transition Theory, is outlined, which is used to interpret the transitional properties of this pandemic, the ways it differs from other transitional events, and how it impacts the lives and well-being of the individuals. The prediction is that people might consider the pandemic as an important life transition event only if there is a little similarity between their pre-pandemic and post-pandemic lives. Individual differences also need to be considered as those whose lives have been directly affected by the pandemic experience a greater COVID-related change (e.g., job loss vs. no job loss). Lastly, the transitional impact of the pandemic might have a strong link with people’s mental outcomes. These notions call for a longitudinal approach to get an accurate understanding of the pandemic experience while this world-changing event unfolds rather than in retrospect.
While there are plenty of studies on the effects of neighborhood and park greenness on personal overall satisfaction and walking behavior, the relationship between street greenness exposure and walking satisfaction has received limited attention. Also, the possible pathways by which street greenness exposure affects walking satisfaction need to be further examined. To fill these research gaps, we measured eye-level street greenness using street view images, machine learning techniques and global position systems. A structural equation model was used to examine the mediating effects of objective noise and PM2.5 exposure and related subjective annoyance, on the relationship between street greenness exposure and people’s walking satisfaction. The results showed that street greenness exposure not only had a significant direct effect on walking satisfaction, but also has a significant indirect effect on walking satisfaction through subjective environmental annoyances (including noise and PM2.5 annoyances) rather than through objective noise and PM2.5 exposures. Besides physical activity and social interaction, the indirect effect of street greenness exposure on walking satisfaction through subjective environmental pollution annoyance accounted for about 17.39% of the total effect and cannot be ignored. These results suggest that the urban greenness layout policy should not only consider residential greenness but should improve people’s environmental perception and walking satisfaction by allocating more greenness on streets with high noise and PM2.5 levels.
Usability and User Experience are high-impact quality factors for the design of interactive systems, since they impact how we use them in daily life activities. Despite the importance of these quality attributes, several users report problems when interacting with information systems. Considering the need to meet different quality standards, software testing is an important area for identifying software defects. Despite the proposal of different approaches for A/B testing in the context of Usability and UX evaluation, there are still some improvement opportunities. For instance, after carrying out a literature review, we did not identify an A/B testing process that could be applied for identifying both usability and user experience problems. Furthermore, most of the A/B testing processes in the context of human computer interaction do not gather qualitative data, which makes it difficult to identify what to improve in the selected version of a software to meet the users’ needs. Considering the above, this paper proposes a new A/B testing process that allows the evaluation of both usability and user experience attributes. For each of the A/B testing processes found in our literature review, we gathered data on the categorization of the process, its activities, the roles within the process, and the artifacts that were employed during the planning, conducting and reporting of the test. We then organized our results creating a new process that would consider all relevant activities and artifacts from previous work.
Social interactions within modern Buddhist communities reflect two hierarchical rules. First, the Dharma titles ordained to specific masters affect how they interact with one another. Second, as more Buddhist organizations adapt to secular society, their members also network along nonreligious hierarchies. To capture how such changing social hierarchies shape masters’ social networks, this study examines the “status effects” embedded in social interactions within Foothills, a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, based on contact diaries recorded over twenty-eight months. Multilevel analyses that focus on 102,254 contacts nested in 582 interpersonal ties among 53 Buddhist masters indicate that nearly all pairings of the ascribed Dharma titles had significant effects on emotional gain, and perceived status was not significant. In addition, contact with the highest ascribed title was clearly more important for instrumental gain, whereas the pattern of the perceived status effect was ambiguous. While the modern monastery has incorporated task-oriented work from secular society, the ordained titles continue to generate more profound effects than perceived status.
I study the influence of leadership on organizational performance and worker wellbeing using data from the 2004 and 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS). Our most conservative estimates from fixed effects regressions on a panel of organizations reveal that virtuous leadership is significantly and positively linked to an upbeat assessment of organizational performance, and an increase in worker wellbeing. Specifically, the estimates reveal that an increase in leadership quality by one standard deviation increases organizational performance and worker job satisfaction by 0.27 and 0.73 standard deviations, respectively, while it leads to a fall in worker job anxiety by 0.13 standard deviations. The results support the hypothesis that good leadership is vital for the success of business, including worker wellbeing, which organizational policymakers ought to heed. There is a dearth of empirical evidence on organizational leadership as an institution and its influence on organizational outcomes, which this article aims to address.
This book argues that urban outcomes are better understood as the result of the interactions between policies from distinct policy domains rather than from any single policy silo. In doing so, the book develops and applies the Policy Interactions Framework to the study of the mobility experience of workers in Greater Mexico City. Four empirical studies provide the reader with a comprehensive view of how urban policies can sometimes interact at cross-purposes to produce inequitable urban outcomes. The chapters analyze time and distance in the journey to work to quantify and map commuting inequalities, assess the shift in the spatial location of the demand for labor between 1999 and 2019, examine the default housing pathways available for workers, and evaluate the spatial distribution of public and common mobility resources. An outcome of applying the Policy Interactions Framework to the study of workers’ mobility is to put forward the choiceless mobility hypothesis: a process by which the interaction between the spatial location of the demand for labor, the housing pathways available for workers, and the political economy of public transport operates to produce geographies of low accessibility to jobs. The audience of this book consists of scholars and practitioners in the field of urban policy analysis, urban development, and urban political economy in the Global South.
Full-text available
This review organizes a variety of phenomena related to emotional self-report. In doing so, the authors offer an accessibility model that specifies the types of factors that contribute to emotional self-reports under different reporting conditions. One important distinction is between emotion, which is episodic, experiential, and contextual, and beliefs about emotion, which are semantic, conceptual, and decontextualized. This distinction is important in understanding the discrepancies that often occur when people are asked to report on feelings they are currently experiencing versus those that they are not currently experiencing. The accessibility model provides an organizing framework for understanding self-reports of emotion and suggests some new directions for research.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The national accounts provide a systematic overview of the performance of a nation's economy. An important indicator which can derived from this system is Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Often, (volume growth of) GDP is put on a par with (the increase of) welfare or well-being of the society concerned. The latter, however, contains many other aspects; it is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. In this paper, (economic) well-being is defined, and different methods to take into account the various aspects of well-being are discussed. Subsequently, the System of Economic and Social Accounting Matrices including Extensions (SESAME), the Dutch alternative to measuring well-being, is introduced.
Large samples of students in the Midwest and in Southern California rated satisfaction with life overall as well as with various aspects of life, for either themselves or someone similar to themselves in one of the two regions. Self-reported overall life satisfaction was the same in both regions, but participants who rated a similar other expected Californians to be more satisfied than Midwesterners. Climate-related aspects were rated as more important for someone living in another region than for someone in one's own region. Mediation analyses showed that satisfaction with climate and with cultural opportunities accounted for the higher overall life satisfaction predicted for Californians. Judgments of life satisfaction in a different location are susceptible to a focusing illusion: Easily observed and distinctive differences between locations are given more weight in such judgments than they will have in reality.
Pleasures of the mind are different from pleasures of the body. There are two types of pleasures of the body: tonic pleasures and relief pleasures. Pleasures of the body are given by the contact senses and by the distance senses (seeing and hearing). The distance senses provide a special category of pleasure. Pleasures of the mind are not emotions; they are collections of emotions distributed over time. Some distributions of emotions over time are particularly pleasurable, such as episodes in which the peak emotion is strong and the final emotion is positive. The idea that all pleasurable stimuli share some general characteristic should be supplanted by the idea that humans have evolved domain-specific responses of attraction to stimuli. The emotions that characterize pleasures of the mind arise when expectations are violated, causing autonomic nervous system arousal and thereby triggering a search for an interpretation. Thus pleasures of the mind occur when an individual has a definite set of expectations (usually tacit) and the wherewithal to interpret the violation (usually by placing it in a narrative framework). Pleasures of the mind differ in the objects of the emotions they comprise. There is probably a
Recent research suggests that retrospective coping assessments may not correspond well with day-to-day reports. The authors extended this work by examining the correspondence between short-term (within 48 hr) retrospective coping reports and momentary reports recorded via a palm-top computer close in time to when the stressor occurred. There was relatively poor correspondence between the 2 assessments. Some reports of momentary coping were not reported retrospectively, and some coping reported retrospectively was not reported at the time the stressor occurred. Cognitive coping was more likely to be underreported retrospectively; behavioral coping was overreported. Participants were consistent in their discrepancies, but there was no correspondence between discrepancy rates and demographic or personality variables. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Health and longevity are intimately related to position in the social hierarchy. The lower the status, the higher risk of illness and death, and consequently the shorter the life expectancy. In his book of the same name, Michael Marmot calls this social gradient in health the “Status Syndrome”. So what exactly is the cause of this gradient?