Should Participants be Left to their Own Devices? Comparing Paper and Smartphone Diaries in Psychological Research
Growing smartphone ownership creates unprecedented opportunities for using participants’ own smartphones as diaries to record transient phenomena in daily life. In three studies, we assessed the hypothesis that participant-owned smartphone diaries would result in superior compliance and higher number of recorded entries than the traditional paper-diary method. Paper and smartphone diaries were compared for self-initiated recording of involuntary autobiographical memories (Studies 1 and 2) and everyday memory failures (Study 3). Diary-recording period (7-day, 1-day) was also examined by comparing results of Studies 1 and 2. Smartphone owners were highly compliant, carrying diaries and making entries sooner. Nevertheless, significantly fewer memory events were recorded in smartphones than paper diaries in all studies. Moreover, the number of memories recorded in Study 2 (1-day) was significantly higher than recorded on day 1 of Study 1 (7-day), suggesting that shorter diary-keeping periods may be preferable. Implications and opportunities for improving smartphone-diary functionality are discussed.