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LIfBi Lecture: Digital Phenotyping - Data Collection through Smartphones

Today, everyone has a portable supercomputer in their pocket that permanently collects data. So what could be more obvious than to use modern smartphones for research, or more precisely for data collection? In his LIfBi Lecture, Prof. Dr. Markus Bühner from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich presented this new branch of research based on the interdisciplinary research project PhoneStudy.

Recording human behavior is indispensable for psychology as a science of human experience and behavior. The increasing digitalization of everyday life opens up new possibilities for psychological research. Smartphones, smartwatches or fitness trackers unobtrusively collect a wide variety of usage data in real time and natural environments, for example on mobility patterns or social interactions. Activities such as sharing photos, videos or sound clips also allow conclusions to be drawn, for example about the emotional experience of the test subjects.

Markus Bühner, who recently became a member of LIfBi's scientific advisory board, explained to the audience at the Wilhelmspost and online the many points of contact for psychological research. His team uses an Android app for this purpose, which is being continuously developed as part of the interdisciplinary PhoneStudy project at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich.

As diverse as the types of data that can be generated with smartphones are their possible applications. Bühner cited clinical diagnostics as one example, for example in the personalization of therapies or for disease prevention. A decisive advantage: There are no biases in the sense of social desirability or memory errors and a lower probability of conscious and unconscious deception. However, this is also accompanied by considerable challenges for researchers. As examples, Bühner highlighted the complex implementation of data protection requirements. Technical, personnel, methodological and, most recently, ethical hurdles also mean that the promising potential of digital diagnostics cannot yet be exploited, according to Bühner.

Markus Bühner spent two days at LIfBi and exchanged ideas with the LIfBi team in various discussion rounds. These included discussions with both junior researchers and the management level. The visit was concluded with an intensive exchange with employees of the Center for Study Management, also on the challenges of conducting studies.

About the PhoneStudy project: 

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