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Journal Article

An Evaluation of Students’ Interest in and Compliance With Self-Tracking Methods: Recommendations for Incentives Based on Three Smartphone Sensing Studies


Self-tracking consists of recording the behaviors that occur in one’s daily life. Self-tracking studies can provide researchers with passively sensed information about individual’s daily behaviors and environments and actively logged information (e.g., self-reports). This method has great promise for obtaining detailed records of behavior in naturalistic contexts, but it is not known what factors would motivate individuals to participate in self-tracking studies. Here, we analyze students’ interest in self-tracking and their compliance with self-tracking using smartphones. Three dimensions of self-tracking motivations were identified: productivity and health behaviors, well-being and daily activities, and social life on campus; these motivations were related to participation preferences and individual characteristics. We also present evidence from three studies that suggest personalized feedback combined with other incentives (course credit toward a class assignment, monetary compensation, or a prize reward) can be an effective recruitment strategy. Recommendations for the design of future self-tracking studies are presented.

Gabriella M. Harari
Sandrine R. Müller
Varun Mishra
Rui Wang
Andrew T. Campbell
Peter J. Rentfrow
Samuel D. Gosling
Journal Name
Social Psychological and Personality Science
Publication Date
July 18, 2017