This paper describes “slice of life” methods—detailed observations of moment-to-moment intraindividual processes that occur over short timescales in the natural environment—as an important research tool in exploring social relationships and health across the life span. Such methods, including ecological momentary assessment, experience sampling, daily diaries, measurement burst, and other slice of life designs, are important supplements to more traditional laboratory, epidemiological, and long-term longitudinal research methods. Specifically, we highlight how slice of life methods (with a focus on ecological momentary assessment) allow researchers to compare the relative importance of different social relationships (or features thereof) for health outcomes, understand temporal dynamics, identify potentially causal mechanistic pathways at different timescales through which social relationships influence health, and design, implement, and evaluate innovative interventions that target these pathways at different timescales. We conclude with recommendations and future directions for slice of life methods for research on social relationships and health across the life span.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology