Interdisciplinary applications of human time use with generalized lexicons

Eric Galbraith*, William Fajzel, Shirley Xu, Veronica Xia, Elena Frie, Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Victoria Reyes-García

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Time use studies quantify what people do, over particular time intervals. The results of these studies have illuminated diverse and important aspects of societies and economies, from populations around the world. Yet, these efforts have advanced in a fragmented manner, using non-standardized descriptions (lexicons) of time use that often require researchers to make arbitrary designations among non-exclusive categories, and are not easily translated between disciplines. Here we propose a new approach, assembling multiple dimensions of time use to construct what we call the human chronome, as a means to provide novel interdisciplinary perspectives on fundamental aspects of human behaviour and experience. The approach is enabled by parallel lexicons, each of which aims for low ambiguity by focusing on a single coherent categorical dimension, and which can then be combined to provide a multi-dimensional characterization. Each lexicon should follow a single, consistent theoretical orientation, ensure exhaustiveness and exclusivity, and minimize ambiguity arising from temporal and social aggregation. As a pragmatic first step towards this goal, we describe the development of the Motivating- Outcome- Oriented General Activity Lexicon (MOOGAL). The MOOGAL is theoretically oriented towards the outcomes of activities, is applicable to any human from hunter-gatherers to modern urbanites, and deliberately focuses on the physical outcomes which motivate the undertaking of activities to reduce ambiguity from social aggregation. We illustrate the utility of the MOOGAL by comparing it with existing economic, sociological and anthropological lexicons, showing that it exhaustively covers the previously-defined activities with low ambiguity, and apply it to time use and economic data from two countries. Our results support the feasibility of using generalized lexicons to incorporate diverse observational constraints on time use, thereby providing a rich interdisciplinary perspective on the human system that is particularly relevant to the current period of rapid social, technological and environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0270583
JournalPloS one
Volume17
Issue number7 July
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

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