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Behavioral consistency in the digital age

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/03/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Psychological Science
Issue number3
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)364-370
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date17/02/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Efforts to infer personality from digital footprints have focused on behavioral stability at the trait level without considering situational dependency. We repeated a classic study of intraindividual consistency with secondary data (five data sets) containing 28,692 days of smartphone usage from 780 people. Using per-app measures of pickup frequency and usage duration, we found that profiles of daily smartphone usage were significantly more consistent when taken from the same user than from different users (d > 1.46). Random-forest models trained on 6 days of behavior identified each of the 780 users in test data with 35.8% accuracy for pickup frequency and 38.5% accuracy for duration frequency. This increased to 73.5% and 75.3%, respectively, when success was taken as the user appearing in the top 10 predictions (i.e., top 1%). Thus, situation-dependent stability in behavior is present in our digital lives, and its uniqueness provides both opportunities and risks to privacy.