Exploring Habits and Preferences With the Smartphone

ZPID and LMU Munich are investigating the behavior of smartphone use in a so-called PhoneStudy to better understand human experience and behavior in everyday life.

Communicating with friends, shopping online and listening to music - it's hard to imagine everyday life without the smartphone. While we use the most diverse functions on a daily basis, it also becomes an observer of our activities. Psychologists have recognized the scientific benefit of smartphones to measure and investigate these activities beyond established questionnaire methods. Moreover, the way we use the smartphone provides information about our preferences, personality, stress and moods. 

The PhoneStudy, which ZPID conducts in cooperation with Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, aims to gain scientific insights by studying these data. A specially developed research app is used to collect smartphone data as well as data from questionnaires anonymously, in compliance with strict data protection guidelines.

Dr. Holger Steinmetz, head of Big Data at ZPID, says: "The smartphone revolutionizes behavioral measurement and expands the possibilities of science beyond established laboratory experiments and survey methods. What is particularly exciting is the exploration of the dynamics of human behavior, its regularity as well as change.

However, these methods also present challenges in terms of storing and processing such large amounts of data and how to analyze them. Here, psychology can learn a lot from other research disciplines, for which methods of studying dynamic processes have always been part of their repertoire."

The team consists of researchers from LMU Munich and ZPID. The PhoneStudy is an interdisciplinary research project of the departments of psychology, computer science, and statistics at LMU Munich.

Participation in the study is scheduled to last several months. The study comprises three components: automatic data collection, where the app records the daily usage habits of the study participants, snapshots, where several short questionnaires are to be answered over a period of two weeks and longer online questionnaires, which are to be completed in the middle of each month.