GPS Technology and Human Psychological Research: A Methodological Proposal

  • Pedro S.A. Wolf (University of Arizona)
  • W. Jake Jacobs (University of Arizona)


Animal behaviorists have made extensive use of GPS technology since 1991. In contrast, psychological research has made little use of the technology, even though the technology is relatively inexpensive, familiar, and widespread. Hence, its potential for pure and applied psychological research remains untapped. We describe three methods psychologists could apply to individual differences research, clinical research, or spatial use research. In the context of individual differences research, GPS technology permits us to test hypotheses predicting specific relations among patterns of spatial use and individual differences variables. In a clinical context, GPS technology provides outcome measures that may relate to the outcome of interventions designed to treat psychological disorders that, for example, may leave a person homebound (e.g. Agoraphobia, PTSD, TBI). Finally, GPS technology provides natural measures of spatial use. We, for example, used GPS technology to quantify traffic flow and exhibit use at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Interested parties could easily extend this methodology some aspects of urban planning or business usage.

Keywords: GPS, ethology, spatial cognition, outcome evaluation, human navigation

Published on
12 Oct 2010
Peer Reviewed