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BEYOND SELF-REPORT: USING OBSERVATIONAL, PHYSIOLOGICAL, AND SITUATION-BASED MEASURES IN RESEARCH ON OCCUPATIONAL STRESS

Emotional and Physiological Processes and Positive Intervention Strategies

ISBN: 978-0-76231-057-9, eISBN: 978-1-84950-238-2

ISSN: 1479-3555

Publication date: 17 December 2003

Abstract

The preponderance of studies that rely on self-report for both independent (e.g. stressors) and dependent (e.g. well-being) variables is often deplored, as it creates problems of common method variance, which may lead to inflated, or even spurious, correlations and predictions. It is sometimes suggested that alternative measures should yield more “objective” information on the phenomena under investigation. We discuss this issue with regard to: (a) observational measures of working conditions; (b) physiological measures of strain; and (c) event-based “self-observation” on a micro-level. We argue that these methods are not necessarily “objective.” Like self-report, they are influenced by a plethora of factors; and measurement artifacts can easily be produced. All this can make their interpretation quite difficult, and the conclusion that lack of convergence with self-report automatically invalidates self-report is not necessarily warranted. Especially with regard to physiological measures, one has to keep in mind that they refer to a different response level that follows its own laws and is only loosely coupled with psychological responses. Therefore, replacement is not a promising way to get more reliable estimates of stressor-strain relationships. We argue instead that each method contains both substantive and error variance, and that a combination of various methods seems more auspicious. After discussing advantages and pitfalls of observational, physiological, and self-observational measures, respectively, we report empirical examples from our own research on each of these methods, which are meant to illustrate both the advantages and the problems associated with them. They strengthen the overall conclusion that there is no “substitute” for self-report (which often is necessary to be able to interpret data from other methods, most notably physiological ones). They also illustrate that collecting such data is quite cumbersome, and that a number of conditions have to be carefully considered before using them, and we report some problems we encountered in this research. Altogether, we conclude that self-report measures, if carefully constructed, are better than their reputation, but that the optimal way is to complement them with other measures.

Citation

Semmer, N.K., Grebner, S. and Elfering, A. (2003), "BEYOND SELF-REPORT: USING OBSERVATIONAL, PHYSIOLOGICAL, AND SITUATION-BASED MEASURES IN RESEARCH ON OCCUPATIONAL STRESS", Perrewe, P.L. and Ganster, D.C. (Ed.) Emotional and Physiological Processes and Positive Intervention Strategies (Research in Occupational Stress and Well Being, Vol. 3), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 205-263. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1479-3555(03)03006-3

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2003, Emerald Group Publishing Limited