Studying religiosity by text messages and three minute surveys

A new study of religiosity utilizes text messages and short surveys:

After signing up on soulpulse.org, users receive text messages twice a day for 14 days that direct them to a 15 to 20-question survey. These questions gather data on daily spiritual attitudes and physical influences at points during the day, such as quality of sleep, amount of exercise and alcohol consumption. The average length of time required to complete the survey is around three minutes and is designed with the ideas of simplicity and ease of use.

At the end of the two-week testing period, the reward for participants is a comprehensive review of their data that allows them to see and learn more about their spiritual mindsets. In return, the research team is given the opportunity to analyze the information that they have collected. Wright said they have already found that people report the greatest feelings of spirituality on Sundays and the least amount on Wednesdays.

A collection of three-minute surveys however, took months of collaboration across the country to complete. 18 months of planning and 10 trips to Silicon Valley were necessary, as well as a team of people who each contributed a unique skillset to the group. The Soulpulse team consists of four computer programmers, three public engagers and six academic advisors – including UConn professors Crystal Park and Jeremy Pais.

Measuring religiosity is well established in sociology but it often relies on people reporting on their past behavior. For example, some sociologists suggest church attendance figures are regularly inflated. Using text messages would allow more up-to-date data as the goal is to quickly interrupt people’s activity and get their more accurate take on their religious behavior.

Generally, I would guess sociology and other social science fields are headed in this direction for data collection: less formal and more minute to minute. In the past, some of this was done with time diaries or logs. But, even these posed problems as at the end of the day a person might misremember or reinterpret their earlier actions. Utilizing text messages or pop-up Internet surveys or other means could yield more better data, utilize newer technologies respondents are regularly engaging, and perhaps even take less time in the long run.

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