Interpreting the data collected from volunteers' own smartphones - which has the potential to emulate randomised trials - can advance research into human behaviour, a new study has found. Scientists have demonstrated the potential of using smartphones for conducting large-scale behavioural studies.
Fani Tsapeli from the University of Birmingham and her colleague and Mirco Musolesi from University College London in UK evaluated the cause of increased stress levels of participants employing user-generated data, harvested from their phones.
Most of the research work relying on smartphones has focused on detecting factors in the features extracted from smartphone data. The trouble is that pure correlation analysis does not provide for a sufficient understanding of human behaviour.
Instead, scientists are now increasingly interested in identifying factors that could be at the root cause of issues revolving around health and well-being. In the study, the scientists used data from a research project at Dartmouth College in US, called StudentLife.
It includes information on participants' location taken from raw Global Positioning System (GPS) data, which helps determine whether they are working or socialising. Also included is data on activity levels, like running, walking or travelling on public transport, inferred from participants' raw accelerometer data.
They found that exercising and spending time outside the home and working environment have a positive effect on participants' stress levels. By contrast, they found that reduced working hours only slightly impact stress. The conclusions cannot be extended to the general population due to the small sample size. But the approach has been validated and shows great promise for further studies, researchers said. The study was published in the journal EPJ Data Science.