Smartphone study reveals bodily rhythm affects behaviour

The team only looked at the times when people were actively using their phones and were swiping or typing.

London: Human body’s rhythms may determine our behaviour, according to a smartphone-based study.

Researchers from the Leiden University in the Netherlands analysed the usage data of hundreds of mobile phones and discovered that the human body, both of men and women, has rhythms ranging between seven and 52 days. These cycles influence how we behave.

“If people think they just live their lives, deciding their behaviour for themselves, and that there is no overarching structure, they’ve got it wrong,” said researcher Arko Ghosh, from the varsity.

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The findings, described in an article in the journal npj Digital Medicine, showed that recurring patterns do not occur only in these kinds of psychological and neurological conditions, but that everyone has cycles lasting several days.

“These cycles influence our behaviour. How they influence that behaviour and what behaviour relates to what particular times in the cycle is something we haven’t studied yet,” Ghosh said.

Together with his colleague Enea Ceolini, Ghosh included about 400 people, aged 16 to 80. An app was installed on their android phone that allowed the researchers to track and analyse usage data.

The team only looked at the times when people were actively using their phones and were swiping or typing.

“We made a striking discovery. We found that cycles of several days are very common: in old and young people, and in women and men. That last point is particularly remarkable,” Ghosh said.

“A lot of women face discrimination at work because their performance is often thought to suffer as a result of their menstrual cycle. Our research shows that women are not the only ones with a cycle. Men have a cycle, too, of 25 to 30 days, which also affects their behaviour.”

The results may also have an impact on the research on psychological and neurological conditions.

Further, Ghosh stressed that two people may have the same cycle, but that they may respond completely differently to it. Further research can bring us more insights.

“We might then be able to predict particular behaviour on the basis of a person’s cycle. This might in turn lead to a completely new definition of what is normal behaviour and what is behaviour that is related to a neurological or psychological condition,” Ghosh noted.

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