Stanford University

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

Harari, G. M., Müller, S. R., Mishra, V., Wang, R., Campbell, A. T., Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2017) An Evaluation of Students’ Interest in and Compliance With Self-Tracking Methods: Recommendations for Incentives Based on Three Smartphone Sensing Studies, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 8 (5), 479-492.

Abstract

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.