I’m happy/pleased/proud to announce that a very cool study I’ve been a part of on has been published this week in Frontiers in Psychology. The paper, on which I’m a co-author, is titled “Smartphone Time Machine: Tech-Supported Improvements in Time Perspective and Wellbeing Measures.” Let’s break that down!
I’ve been working with a team of scientists and creators for almost two years now on an app called Time Machine. The app allows people to engage in “time travel therapy” by recording and listening to audio messages they leave for their past and future selves. We’ve gotten financial support from the forward-thinking Pioneers project at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We used a participant-focused co-design process, which means we set up our process with the intention of getting feedback from our participants and creating iterations of the app based on their notes and questions and ideas. In all we had 96 design partners use and weigh in on the app’s usefulness.
As the project manager, I’ve been involved in every part of the project, from keeping us on schedule, to coding and database support, to tagging about 700 responses to our surveys to use as qualitative data in the paper.
The ability to locate yourself (ideally in a positive, loving way) on a timeline of your life – to see your past and future as well as this present moment. You can learn more about it by watching the intro video in the Hope Intervention series we produced in March-May 2020, to help people deal with the start of the Covid era.
Wellbeing measures: Hope and help for Survivors of Trauma
If you don’t have time to read the whole paper, to me this is the coolest part of the research. It likely won’t surprise you to hear that a sense of wellbeing is often rough for those who have had traumatic childhoods. We pre-screened our design partners to include a larger-than-usual population of individuals who had experienced very difficult childhoods (a topic close to my heart and own life experience). During a 4-week clinical trial, we asked them to assess their wellbeing over multiple measures, both in periodic surveys and using a slider in the app:
On average, design partners reported significant improvement on four measurements: the deviation from what is called a “balanced time perspective” (reduced by 5%), their physical symptoms of stress scores (reduced by an average of 10%), feelings of unconditional love (increased by an average of 5%), and overall wellbeing scores (increased by an average of 12%). Most strikingly, design partners with more childhood trauma began the study with lower wellbeing scores than those with less childhood trauma, but over the course of the 4-week study, their overall wellbeing scores increased by 16%, allowing them to “catch up” to those who reported less childhood trauma. In fact, they showed twice the increase shown by design partners with lower ACES scores.
One of the more impressive results was that improvements in both time perspective and overall wellbeing scores were significantly correlated with increases in feelings of unconditional love, an area that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention in scientific studies, except by my colleague, Dr. Julia Mossbridge.
It’s been fantastic to work again alongside Dr. Mossbridge, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and collaborating with for decades now. She’s an Affiliate Professor in the Department of Physics and Biophysics at University of San Diego and the founder and Executive Director of the super-cool Institute for Love and Time. Dr. Mossbridge and her colleagues have published two previous studies that are to our knowledge the only studies to use a clearly defined description of unconditional love to assess feelings of unconditional love over time. One of those (her work with Sophia, a humanoid robot!) was featured in the documentary, The Portal.
Want to try it out for yourself?
You can sign up to be a beta tester for the latest iteration, to which we’ve added several features requested by our design partners, or just receive updates about the project at timemachine.love.