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Enhancing Understanding of Digital Traces

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date15/11/2022
Number of pages252
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


“How did Galileo demonstrate the veracity of the copernican view of the sun centred universe? Well, the main advances were incremental in their ability to refine glass into lenses, not very sexy, except he could use that to make his own telescopes and see the moons of Jupiter.” - Dr Steven Hyman. (Cahalan, 2019, p 283)

Technological advances have repeatedly provided new tools for psychologists to
conduct scientific inquiry. Theories regarding cognition, perception and behaviour have been more rigorously falsified or at least tested thanks to computers, electroencephalographs and associated big data sets. Smartphones are among the latest technologies being used for psychological research. Portable devices like these could provide unparalleled access into
peoples’real-world behaviour via highly ecologically valid data. However, there are significant obstacles for psychologists to overcome before the potential of smartphones can be fully realised. Part one of this thesis documents multiple newmethodsthat concern the development of smartphone apps for psychological research and provides guidance to ensure subsequent research is compliant with open science practices while maintaining participant privacy.In part
two, developed apps are used in research designsthat reveal inconsistencies between objective and self-report assessments ofsmartphone usage. Specifically, objective methodsof measuring smartphone usage reduce the associations to almost zero between ‘screen time’ and health when compared with subjective estimates. Thisfurther demonstrates how the interdisciplinary
application ofsmartphone technology can transform applied psychology or at least increase the methodological rigor.