Andrew Campbell, the lead investigator, admits to NPR that it sounds “creepy.”
A smartphone generally has Wi-fi, GPS to detect location, an accelerometer which detects motion and a microphone, which can pick up nearby sound. The phone also senses whether or not it’s being charged or being used.
Using this information and a map of the campus, the researchers designed an app that can guess whether the student is sleeping (phone is charging, no interaction), walking or running, studying (low noise level, 20+ minutes in same place, low interaction with phone) or partying (at a fraternity or sorority house but don’t live there, loud noise, typical party night).
Not surprisingly, students who studied more got higher grades.
Slightly more surprising, students tended to perform better when they buckled down towards the end of the semester. After the midterm, “A” students partied less, stayed at home more, and spent less time in conversation. But what’s interesting is that this relationship held true whether they started out as relative extroverts or introverts. It wasn’t the absolute time spent partying, in other words, it was the ability to prioritize that really counted.
Also of note: students with better grades studied in louder locations. Were they benefiting from study groups? Maybe.
Campbell thinks the app could be a “Fitbit for the brain,” helping students improve their habits and achievement.
The 1978 movie Animal House was inspired by the fraternity scene at Dartmouth. In April, a Dartmouth fraternity, Alpha Delta, was “derecognized” because some pledges got brands on their backsides in exchange for the right to refuse “drinking-intensive pledge activities.”