UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
The risks and potential harms associated with participation in survey research are virtually unknown. Previous work has documented emotional distress in subjects with existing emotional vulnerabilities, although the severity and duration of this distress are unknown. We aim to demonstrate that surveys can create changes in mood in normal subjects. Even though these changes may reliably occur, we hypothesize that they will be "minimal risk" in that they reflect normal fluctuations in mood for most individuals and will not be associated with severe distress or harm to the subject. We will also develop a measure to assess the impacts of participation in research of this type. Finally, we will test novel procedures to alleviate negative moods. Even though we do not expect our normal subjects to experience adverse or severe impacts of the emotional survey, procedures to return the individual's mood to baseline are desirable and appropriate human subject protections. To ensure subject safety, individuals with pre-existing vulnerabilities that could place them at risk for harm will be excluded from participation. Subjects will participate in a telephone interview about an event that was personally distressing, and mood, stress, and emotional reactions will be assessed after the interview. In a second interview 24-48 hours later, subjects will be randomly assigned to one of three novel interventions designed to either enhance or alleviate the emotional effects of the initial interview. Participants' emotional well-being will be monitored throughout these procedures, and they will be offered mental health support. This study will yield information on the specific impacts of emotionally distressing research on mood, thoughts, and behavior, and will begin to delineate the nature, frequency, severity, and duration of potential emotional harms of survey research. This study provides the basis for future research into methods that minimize negative impacts upon participants in survey research about emotional topics.