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date: 22 September 2020

Summary and Keywords

The study of human development across the lifespan is inherently about patterns across time. Although many developmental questions have been tested with cross-sectional comparisons of younger and older persons, understanding of development as it occurs requires a longitudinal design, repeatedly observing the same individual across time. Development, however, unfolds across multiple time scales (i.e., moments, days, years) and encompasses both enduring changes and transient fluctuations within an individual. Measurement burst designs can detect such variations across different timescales, and disentangle patterns of variations associated with distinct dimensions of time periods. Measurement burst designs are a special type of longitudinal design in which multiple “bursts” of intensive (e.g., hourly, daily) measurements are embedded in a larger longitudinal (e.g., monthly, yearly) study. The hybrid nature of these designs allow researchers to address questions not only of cross-sectional comparisons of individual differences (e.g., do older adults typically report lower levels of negative mood than younger adults?) and longitudinal examinations of intraindividual change (e.g., as individuals get older, do they report lower levels of negative mood?) but also of intraindividual variability (e.g., is negative mood worse on days when individuals have experienced an argument compared to days when an argument did not occur?). Researchers can leverage measurement burst designs to examine how patterns of intraindividual variability unfolding over short timescales may exhibit intraindividual change across long timescales in order to understand lifespan development. The use of measurement burst designs provides an opportunity to collect more valid and reliable measurements of development across multiple time scales throughout adulthood.

Keywords: measurement burst design, longitudinal, intraindividual variability, adulthood development, ambulatory assessments, lifespan development, aging

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