Putting human behavior predictability in context
Department of Information Engineering and Computer Science, University of Trento, Trento, Italy
2 Department of Sociology, University of Trento, Trento, Italy
3 College of Computer Science and Technology, Jilin University, Changchun, China
4 Center for Information and Communication Technology, Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Trento, Italy
Accepted: 27 July 2021
Published online: 13 August 2021
Various studies have investigated the predictability of different aspects of human behavior such as mobility patterns, social interactions, and shopping and online behaviors. However, the existing researches have been often limited to a single or to the combination of few behavioral dimensions, and they have adopted the perspective of an outside observer who is unaware of the motivations behind the specific behaviors or activities of a given individual. The key assumption of this work is that human behavior is deliberated based on an individual’s own perception of the situation that s/he is in, and that therefore it should also be studied under the same perspective. Taking inspiration from works in ubiquitous and context-aware computing, we investigate the role played by four contextual dimensions (or modalities), namely time, location, activity being carried out, and social ties, on the predictability of individuals’ behaviors, using a month of collected mobile phone sensor readings and self-reported annotations about these contextual modalities from more than two hundred study participants. Our analysis shows that any target modality (e.g. location) becomes substantially more predictable when information about the other modalities (time, activity, social ties) is made available. Multi-modality turns out to be in some sense fundamental, as some values (e.g. specific activities like “shopping”) are nearly impossible to guess correctly unless the other modalities are known. Subjectivity also has a substantial impact on predictability. A location recognition experiment suggests that subjective location annotations convey more information about activity and social ties than objective information derived from GPS measurements. We conclude the paper by analyzing how the identified contextual modalities allow to compute the diversity of personal behavior, where we show that individuals are more easily identified by rarer, rather than frequent, context annotations. These results offer support in favor of developing innovative computational models of human behaviors enriched by a characterization of the context of a given behavior.
Key words: Human behavior / Personal context / Predictability / Diversity
© The Author(s) 2021
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