Stanford University

Sensing Sociability: Individual Differences in Young Adults’ Conversation, Calling, Texting and App Use Behaviors in Daily Life

Harari, G. M., Müller, S. R., Stachl, C., Wang, R., Wang, W., Bühner, M., Rentfrow, J. P., Campbell, A.T., & Gosling, S. D. (2019). Sensing Sociability: Individual Differences in Young Adults’ Conversation, Calling, Texting and App Use Behaviors in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Abstract

Sociability as a disposition describes a tendency to affiliate with others (vs. be alone). Yet, we know relatively little about how much social behavior people engage in during a typical day. One challenge to documenting social behavior tendencies is the broad number of channels over which socializing can occur, both in-person and through digital media. To examine individual differences in everyday social behavior patterns, here we used smartphone-based mobile sensing methods (MSMs) in four studies (total N = 926) to collect real-world data about young adults’ social behaviors across four communication channels: conversations, phone calls, text messages, and use of messaging and social media applications. To examine individual differences, we first focused on establishing between-person variability in daily social behavior, examining stability of and relationships among daily sensed social behavior tendencies. To explore factors that may explain the observed individual differences in sensed social behavior, we then expanded our focus to include other time estimates (e.g., times of the day, days of the week) and personality traits. In doing so, we present the first large-scale descriptive portrait of behavioral sociability patterns, characterizing the degree to which young adults engaged in social behaviors and mapping these behaviors onto self-reported personality dispositions. Our discussion focuses on how the observed sociability patterns compare to previous research on young adults’ social behavior. We conclude by pointing to areas for future research aimed at understanding sociability using mobile sensing and other naturalistic observation methods for the assessment of social behavior.