The data that is collected through these technological advances can be a great source of data for social and personality psychology researchers, especially since it can provide access to very large, very representative, and very diverse samples. For perspective, the amount of big data produced on a daily basis would pile from the Earth to the Sun four times over.
How do researchers get their hands on these data? Researchers can collect the data themselves through a variety of methods, such as through an API (application program interface) that can be used to collect data on websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, ad targeting on social media websites, websites like mypersonality.org in which users allow access to from their Facebook data, and many others. Obtaining big data can even be as easy as emailing a corporation and asking for the data that they have collected.
Smartphones are especially valuable sources of data, as 64% of the world population uses a smartphone. Sensors on mobile phones, such as call/text logs, application use logs, GPS, or accelerometers, can be used to quickly and easily collect data on social interactions, activity (walking, running, cycling), distance travelled, and others.
A gadget called Narrative Clip can provide data on situations that people encounter every day. Narrative Clip is a small, wearable device that captures images according to a predetermined interval. When worn, it can provide unobtrusive insight into people’s normal, everyday lives.
These technological advances also come with their share of challenges, such as distinguishing between public versus private data, consent to obtain personal data, and an increasing need for technical and analytical skills (e.g., programming skills).
Despite these challenges, new technological developments will continue to progress over time. This will undoubtedly provide even more ways for researchers to measure and to learn more about people’s behaviors and everyday situations and how it can impact their daily lives.