Andrea Reina Tamayo - Psychology

For Andrea Reina-Tamayo it's all about the moment

"There aren’t many studies of work engagement at the moment level. It’s something quite ‘out of the box.’"

Why do people behave the way they do? It’s something many people wonder. For Andrea Reina-Tamayo, this became an even more intriguing question after she moved as a teenager with her family from Colombia to Canada. “When you experience a culture change, you start wondering why people from different cultures act so different,” Andrea recalls. Psychology classes during her Bachelor appeared to provide many answers. A fascination for psychology was born. Andrea is currently conducting PhD research in the field of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, in the area of momentary work engagement. 

Positive psychology
“In clinical psychology, it’s a lot about pathologies, anxieties, etcetera. It’s all really interesting, but instead of focusing on the negative, I’d rather focus on the positive,” Andrea explains. This is why she chose to do research in the field of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. “I think it’s really important that people stay motivated in their job. You spend a lot of your time at work; if you’re not happy during all these hours of your life, what’s the point?”

Momentary engagement
It became something she experienced herself after having finished her Master’s degree: “I got a job in recruitment, which soon became more of a routine,”

"This PhD is the perfect opportunity for me to expand my knowledge and to become an expert in a particular field."

Andrea recalls. “I wasn’t able to apply what I had learned, or to create programmes. That’s why after a year I decided to do my PhD.” Currently, she is studying momentary changes in work engagement and the effect the tasks, supervision and people around you can have on this experience.

Becoming an expert
Having worked with the concept of engagement while studying for her Master’s degree, she was already a little familiar with the literature. “This PhD is the perfect opportunity for me to expand my knowledge on the subject and to become an expert in a particular field,” Andrea explains enthusiastically.

Tracking your engagement levels
However, it was also the technology used in this research that really attracted her. Andrea: “A smartphone app called ‘Bevlogenheid’ (‘Engagement’) was developed for the project, in which we use the method of experience sampling. We send users three push messages a day at random times for a week with questions relating to the activity they’re doing, where they are, who they’re with and how they feel in terms of energy, enthusiasm and absorption. This way we are able to gather data and the users can track their engagement and get insight into their energy levels.”

Out of the box
Doing research on momentary engagement and using this type of technology and the method of experience sampling is new, Andrea explains. “There aren’t many studies about engagement at the moment level. It’s something quite out of the box. Normally the research in organizational psychology and in the literature on engagement is based on just one questionnaire which only gives you insight into how people generally feel.”

Her analysis instead focuses on how people generally feel plus how they feel during the day, plus how they feel during the moment. Andrea: “The moments are clustered in the day and the days are clustered in the person. This way, we can not only explain differences in engagement between people, but also how people’s engagement levels fluctuate within themselves from day to day and moment to moment.” 

Microscopic view
By using this method, she’s able to track proximal factors, things that are really happening at that particular moment and that are affecting someone’s work engagement. “It’s kind of a microscopic way of looking at it.” 

"The methodology we’re using to measure engagement is really hot as more and more people are using apps."

Of course it’s very thrilling to use these relatively new technologies and this multi-level analysis, but this also accounts for some of the challenges Andrea encounters. “It’s not something a lot of people have done before, which makes it more difficult to find people or research that can guide you on how to better analyze the data.”

Something bigger
At the same time, this groundbreaking aspect of her research, coupled with the fact that she’s contributing to the field of wellbeing, is exactly what keeps her motivated. Andrea: “The methodology we’re using to measure engagement is really hot. More and more people are using apps to gain insights about themselves just by tracking whatever they do.” 

And for researchers, it’s becoming easier to gather all the available data out there. Andrea: “The Bevlogenheid app can be developed into something much more interactive. Something where people can get points or share their data with their colleagues and start tracking their engagement together. It can become something much bigger. It’s really nice to think about all the possibilities that are out there.”