Sensor-based proximity metrics for team research. A validation study across three organizational contexts

Jörg Müller (Corresponding author), Julio Meneses, Anne Laure Humbert, Elisabeth Anna Guenther

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


Wearable sensors are becoming increasingly popular in organizational research. Although validation studies that examine sensor data in conjunction with established social and psychological constructs are becoming more frequent, they are usually limited for two reasons: first, most validation studies are carried out under laboratory settings. Only a handful of studies have been carried out in real-world organizational environments. Second, for those studies carried out in field settings, reported findings are derived from a single case only, thus seriously limiting the possibility of studying the influence of contextual factors on sensor-based measurements. This article presents a validation study of expressive and instrumental ties across nine relatively small R&D teams. The convergent validity of Bluetooth (BT) detections is reported for friendship and advice-seeking ties under three organizational contexts: research labs, private companies, and university-based teams. Results show that, in general, BT detections correlated strongly with self-reported measurements. However, the organizational context affects both the strength of the observed correlation and its direction. Whereas advice-seeking ties generally occur in close spatial proximity and are best identified in university environments, friendship relationships occur at a greater spatial distance, especially in research labs. We conclude with recommendations for fine-tuning the validity of sensor measurements by carefully examining the opportunities for organizational embedding in relation to the research question and collecting complementary data through mixed-method research designs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)718-743
Number of pages26
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 501015 Organisational psychology
  • 504007 Empirical social research


  • Bluetooth
  • Mixed-methods
  • Organizational context
  • Team science
  • Wearable sensors

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