Duke University business professor Jordan Etkin found evidence they might:
"In general, tracking activity can increase how much people do," Etkin said. "But at the same time, measurement has these pernicious effects. Enjoyable activities can became almost like a job, by focusing on the outcomes of things that used to be fun."
In another study, researchers had 310 participants read for eight minutes. One group read additional text that described reading as fun an enjoyable; for another group it was described as useful and educational — more like work. A third group received no additional information. In all three groups, some readers were told how many pages they had read as they went, others were not.
The readers who could see how many pages they had read reported that reading felt more like work and less enjoyable than those who could not — but not among participants who were told the project was more work-like at the start.
"This doesn't mean we should stop measuring our daily activity," she said, "but we need to balance that increased productivity against our underlying enjoyment. For activities people do for fun, it may be better not to know."
Finding out that my Fitbit might make me sad makes me sad.
Of course, this could just be a horrible example of bad science reporting, which Deeply Trivial just blogged about yesterday.