A smartphone ecological momentary assessment/intervention "app" for collecting real-time data and promoting self-awareness

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 14;8(8):e71325. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071325. eCollection 2013.


We have designed a flexible ecological momentary assessment/intervention smartphone (EMA/EMI) "app". We examine the utility of this app for collecting real-time data, and assessing intra-subject variability, by using it to assess how freshman undergraduates spend their time. We also explore whether its use can promote greater self-awareness. Participants were randomly divided into an experimental group, who used the app, and a control group, who did not. We used the app to collect both randomized in-the-moment data as well as end-of-day data to assess time use. Using a posttest survey we asked participants questions about how they spent time throughout the school semester. We also asked the experimental group about their experience with the app. Among other findings, 80.49% participants indicated that they became more aware of how they spent their time using the app. Corroborating this report, among the experimental group, end-of-semester self-assessment of time spent wasted, and time spent using electronics recreationally, predicted semester GPA at a strength comparable to high school GPA and ACT score (two of the best single predictors for first semester college GPA), but had no correlation among controls. We discuss the advantages and limitations of using apps, such as ours, for EMA and/or EMI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Awareness*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Data Collection / instrumentation
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Self-Assessment
  • Space Perception
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Time Management / psychology*
  • Time Perception
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The development of this app was supported by an institutional grant from the Eli Lilly Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.