Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

App may signal cellphone dependency

28.01.2014
Researchers from the University of Bonn have developed 'an app for that'

A new, free app will allow smartphone users to measure their cellphone use. Computer scientists and psychologists from the University of Bonn have developed an application for this purpose.

Whoever installs it can see, e.g., how much time s/he spends on the phone or which apps s/he uses most frequently. The relevant key data is sent to a server anonymously for the scientists to analyze. They are already using a similar technology for the early detection of depression.

This app dubbed Menthal will run on Android 4.0 (or newer). It is available as a free download from Google's Playstore or http://www.menthal.org. "If you would like to go on a digital diet, we will provide you with the scales," joked Alexander Markowetz, junior professor for computer science at the University of Bonn.

The app is part of a larger research project regarding the use of cellphones. Most studies have so far relied on user self-assessments for this purpose. But that information is unreliable. "Menthal will provide reliable data for the first time," Markowetz stressed. "This app can show us in detail what someone's average cellphone consumption per day looks like."

Average users activate their smartphones every 12 minutes on average

In an as yet unpublished study, the researchers used Menthal to examine the phone behavior of 50 students over a period of six weeks. "Some of the results were shocking," commented Dr. Christian Montag, Privatdozent for Psychology at the University of Bonn. So, for example, a quarter of the study subjects used their phones for more than two hours a day. On average, study participants activated their phones more than 80 times a day – during the day, every 12 minutes on average. For some subjects, the results were even twice as high.

Typical users only spoke on their phones for eight minutes a day, and they wrote 2.8 text messages. And yet, the main use of phones was still for communication: over half of the time, the subjects were using Messenger or spending time on social networks. What'sApp alone took up 15 percent, Facebook nine percent. Games accounted for 13 percent, with some subjects gaming for several hours a day.

The main interest of the Bonn researchers focused on problematic use of cellphones. "We would like to know how much cellphone use is normal, and where 'too much' starts," Christian Montag explained – and that using a cellphone is similar to using a slot machine – which is why phones are turned on so often. He added that this potential new addiction is not yet an officially recognized disease. "And yet we know that using a cellphone can result in symptoms resembling an addiction," Montag pointed out. He explained that excessive use might result in neglecting essential daily responsibilities or one's direct social environment. "Outright withdrawal symptoms can actually occur when cellphones cannot be used."

Cellphones as detectors for depression

The app was created in the context of a broader initiative that aims at introducing computer science methods into the psychological sciences –-scientists also call this new research area "psychoinformatics." In a current article in the journal "Medical Hypotheses" they explain how psychology and psychiatry can benefit from the related possibilities. "So for example, one could imagine using cellphone data in order to measure the severity and the progress of depression," explained Montag. "We are in the process of conducting another study about this in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Thomas Schläpfer, a psychiatrist from the Bonn Universitäts¬klinikum."

Depression is signaled by social withdrawal and an inability to enjoy activities, among other symptoms. The disease often progresses in an episodic fashion. "We suspect that during a depressive phase, cellphone use will change in a measurable way," explained Prof. Schläpfer. "Patients will then make fewer phone calls and venture outside less frequently – a change in behavior that smartphones can also record thanks to their built-in GPS." A psychiatrist might thus be able to use patients' cell¬phones as a diagnostic tool and, if necessary, intervene accordingly early on. "Of course," Markowetz added, "this will only be possible in strict compliance with data privacy laws, and with patients' consent."

In general, Markowetz explained, compliance with strict data privacy rules is essential when analyzing such data. In their study, the participating researchers explicitly discuss the ethical aspects of data use in their work, pointing out that the doctor-patient privilege, which is painstakingly applied to the data collected, constitutes a proven method for handling information.

Publication: Psycho-Informatics: Big Data Shaping Modern Psychometrics; Medical Hypotheses (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2013.11.030; in print)

Contact:

Jun. Prof. Alexander Markowetz (PhD)
Institute of Computer Science III, University of Bonn
Ph. +49-228-73-7409
Email: alex@iai.uni-bonn.de
PD Dr. Christian Montag
Abteilung Differentielle und Biologische Psychologie, University of Bonn
Ph. +49-228-73-4309
Email: christian.montag@uni-bonn-diff.de
Prof. Dr. Thomas Schläpfer
Klinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Universitätsklinikum Bonn
Ph. +49-228-287-15715
Email: Thomas.Schlaepfer@ukb.uni-bonn.de

Dr. Christian Montag | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uni-bonn.de

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Chances to treat childhood dementia
24.07.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht World first: Massive thrombosis removed during early pregnancy
20.07.2017 | Universitätsspital Bern

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultrathin device harvests electricity from human motion

24.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

ADIR Project: Lasers Recover Valuable Materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>