A University of Maine clinical psychology student is using smartphones as tools for research.
"You're carrying your phone with you anyway, and even that type of data like GPS or how often you're lifting your phone up, how mobile you are, can really give us a lot of information," said Colin Bosma, a graduate student in the clinical psychology program at University of Maine.
This fall, 110 volunteer participants will fill out questionnaires, assessments and watch a sad scene from a movie. Then volunteers will create a behavioral profile by using an app on their phones.
Bosma will look at digital footprints to see if people who struggle to regulate sadness are less social and less mobile. He said the digital sensors in smartphones can provide that information.
"People that are really circumscribed to staying at home, or maybe they're not socializing as much, not texting many people, or maybe just one person a lot, that may be indicative of a person having depressed feelings and they're having difficulties regulating their emotions," said Bosma.
Bosma said he hopes to someday find specific treatments for people.
"We can give somebody this app on their phone, a physician or clinician could," Bosma said. "Then within a few days would be able to determine, 'Oh they're having difficulties in these areas,' and that we can create a more targeted intervention for them."
He also assured there is no privacy issue in this study.
"We're not collecting private data such as like content of whatever you're looking up on the internet, or the actual content of your messages. We're not recording phone conversations or anything like that," said Bosma.