Strangers in a Stadium: Studying Group Dynamics With In Vivo Behavioral Tracking

Joshua Conrad Jackson, David Bilkey, Jonathan Jong, Maya Rossignac-Milon, Jamin Halberstadt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
    60 Downloads (Pure)


    Social group dynamics are a defining topic of psychological science, yet the field still lacks methods of tracking groups with precision and control. Previous methods have been hampered by limitations either to external validity (e.g., ecologically deficient environments) or to internal validity (e.g., quasi-experimental designs), but a new technique—which we term in vivo behavioral tracking (IBT)—resolves this trade-off. Through IBT, we track large numbers of people in controlled environments over time, while storing precise behavioral data that can be linked to information regarding participants’ attitudes, personality, and demographics. In this article, we describe the fundamentals, assumptions, and challenges of IBT methodology. We also compare IBT to other tracking methods and illustrate some insights it has provided into group formation and cooperation. We argue that IBT is a highly valid and surprisingly feasible method of studying groups that should be used alongside more traditional forms of data collection.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)509-518
    Number of pages10
    JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
    Issue number5
    Early online date22 Jun 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


    • in vivo behavioural tracking
    • group behavior
    • cooperation
    • group formation
    • social dynamics
    • social psychology


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