A comparison of temporal and location-based sampling strategies for global positioning system-triggered electronic diaries

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Tobias Törnros
Helen Dorn
Markus Reichert
Ulrich Ebner-Priemer
Hans-Joachim Salize
Heike Tost
Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg
Alexander Zipf *
(*) Corresponding Author:
Alexander Zipf | zipf@uni-heidelberg.de

Abstract

Self-reporting is a well-established approach within the medical and psychological sciences. In order to avoid recall bias, i.e. past events being remembered inaccurately, the reports can be filled out on a smartphone in real-time and in the natural environment. This is often referred to as ambulatory assessment and the reports are usually triggered at regular time intervals. With this sampling scheme, however, rare events (e.g. a visit to a park or recreation area) are likely to be missed. When addressing the correlation between mood and the environment, it may therefore be beneficial to include participant locations within the ambulatory assessment sampling scheme. Based on the geographical coordinates, the database query system then decides if a self-report should be triggered or not. We simulated four different ambulatory assessment sampling schemes based on movement data (coordinates by minute) from 143 voluntary participants tracked for seven consecutive days. Two location-based sampling schemes incorporating the environmental characteristics (land use and population density) at each participant’s location were introduced and compared to a time-based sampling scheme triggering a report on the hour as well as to a sampling scheme incorporating physical activity. We show that location-based sampling schemes trigger a report less often, but we obtain more unique trigger positions and a greater spatial spread in comparison to sampling strategies based on time and distance. Additionally, the location-based methods trigger significantly more often at rarely visited types of land use and less often outside the study region where no underlying environmental data are available.

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