For a while in the 1970s, mood rings were all the rage.
They supposedly indicated the wearer’s emotions by changing colour, and they were allegedly scientific.
Mind you, this was also the time of pet rocks.
By 1976, mood rings had entered popular culture to the extent that they featured in a Peanuts comic strip, when Peppermint Patty got so upset with Charlie Brown that her mood ring exploded.
Not a pretty sight.
You really don’t want that happening.
Fast forward 40 years, and some believe that smartphones can act as a kind of mood ring, one that actually does work.
The idea is that by tracking your movements and behaviours, your phone can detect whether you’re having a good or bad day.
Proponents of this theory suggest that someone who’s feeling low is likely to be more immobile (perhaps even staying at home) and less social – sending fewer emails and texts, and making less calls.
The opposite might be true for an individual who was in high spirits.
Now I’m slightly uneasy with this model, mainly because it seems to me that you could easily look inactive when you’re actually at home immersed in some kind of project you’re loving, so not communicating with others could in reality be the result of you having a great time.
Alternatively you could be rushing around making dozens of calls trying to solve some kind of crisis, stressing you out hugely.
I discuss this because I was contacted last week by one of the organisers of an initiative called the Mood Challenge, which is offering substantial and generous grants to studies which explore the use of the iPhone (it’s Apple-specific) as a way to better understand mood.
I know some Moodnudges readers are themselves researchers, and may be interested in applying, in which case I’m happy to pass on details of the Mood Challenge’s website:
But I’m also keen to open up a discussion about this in the Comments section below.
Do you think it’s possible to use “passive” monitoring on a phone to measure mood?
Passive in this sense means your phone would work out how you are, without you needing to do anything.
Or does it seem more likely that mood measurement requires “active” participation by the user – taking some kind of “test”, like the Moodscope one, or the questions in my imminent Nudge Your Way to Happiness book?
I think I’m pretty much in the second camp, but I’d love to know how you see it.