Does Measuring Mood Make Sense?

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Photo courtesy of Celia

Is it possible to improve your mood simply by observing it?

That’s the question sites like Moodscope have been attempting to answer. I decided to check out the daily mood-tracking site for myself after a friend told me about her experiences there. (Before I go on, I should mention that her feedback was highly positive, and she felt a real benefit from her ongoing participation). I was intrigued by the site’s claims that you could lift your mood simply by answering questions on a daily basis, and so I set out to see if it would work in my case.

Moodscope asks you to pop along once a day and answer a series of questions about how you’re feeling at that moment. Then it turns your answers into a number – your mood score. Over time, you’re supposed to see patterns in your mood emerging as your mood score changes, and you can then bring about personal improvements.

On my first visit, I was immediately surprised by the simplicity of the test. You’re given a 20-item list of emotions and you’re required to respond with how strongly you’re feeling them, with the options ranging from 0 for very slightly or not at all to 3 for extremely. Generally, I’m not a fan of this kind of test, which forces you to pick between a set of numbers completely unrelated to the question. If the question was “how many apples did you eat for breakfast?”, I’d be far more accepting of this line of answering, but saying that my current level of happiness is a 2 or that my hostility score is a 3 seems a little absurd to me.

After taking the test each day for a couple of weeks, I could see that I wasn’t really getting anywhere. The way the test is supposed to improve your mood over time is through the Hawthorne Effect – a reaction to testing whereby you make improvements simply in response to the fact that you’re being studied. There have been some arguments against the effectiveness of the Hawthorne Effect, while others have denied its existence entirely.

In any case, there is something to be said for the concept of quantified self – the act of regularly measuring various aspects of your life, such as heart rate, blood pressure, weight, calorie intake, and exercise, for the sake of improvement. I actually think it’s pretty neat to make positive changes in your behavior from these kinds of observations. But shouldn’t we draw the line at our moods? And if we don’t, what’s next? Measuring the human spirit? Or measuring all our emotions on a line between fear and love?

While I can appreciate Moodscope will work for a lot of people, I didn’t find any personal benefits in it. For me, it just doesn’t make sense to assign a number to something as complex as our moods. But please, if you’re interested, try it out and decide for yourself.

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    • Matthew

      You might want to try http://www.moodtrak.com for tracking your moods. It’s not as scientific as moodscope and functions more as a diary.

      • Josh Monk

        Thanks. It definitely looks more like something I could enjoy taking part in, simply as a personal study. The best mood site I came across, in terms of pure creativity, was http://www.wefeelfine.org . It collects people’s feelings from a large number of weblogs and shows them off in a variety of interesting displays. Worth a look-see, for sure.