Experience sampling method

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The experience sampling method (ESM),[1] also referred to as a daily diary method, or ecological momentary assessment (EMA), is an intensive longitudinal research methodology that involves asking participants to report on their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and/or environment on multiple occasions over time.[2] Participants report on their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and/or environment in the moment (right then, not later; right there, not elsewhere) or shortly thereafter.[3] Participants can be given a journal with many identical pages. Each page can have a psychometric scale, open-ended questions, or anything else used to assess their condition in that place and time. ESM studies can also operate fully automatized on portable electronic devices or via the internet.[4] The experience sampling method was developed by Suzanne Prescott during doctoral work at University of Chicago's Committee on Human Development with assistance from her dissertation advisor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.[5] Early studies that used ESM were coauthored by fellow students Reed W. Larson and Ronald Graef, whose dissertations both used the method.[6][7]


There are different ways to signal participants when to take notes in their journal or complete a questionnaire,[8] like using preprogrammed stopwatches. An observer can have an identically programmed stopwatch, so the observer can record specific events as the participants are recording their feelings or other behaviors. It is best to avoid letting subjects know in advance when they will record their feelings, so they can't anticipate the event, and will just be "acting naturally" when they stop and take notes on their current condition. Conversely, some statistical techniques require roughly equidistant time intervals, which has the limitation that assessments can be anticipated. Validity in these studies comes from repetition, so you can look for patterns, like participants reporting greater happiness right after meals. For instance, Stieger and Reips[9] were able to replicate and refine past research about the dynamics of well-being fluctuations during the day (low in the morning, high in the evening) and over the course of a week (low just before the beginning of the week, highest near the end of the week).[10] These correlations can then be tested by other means for cause and effect, such as vector autoregression,[11] since ESM just shows correlation. Moreover, by using the experience sampling method different research questions can be analyzed regarding the use of mobile devices in research. Following on from this, Stieger and colleagues[12] used the experience sampling method to show that smartphones can be used to transfer computer-based tasks (CBTs) from the lab to the field.

Some authors also use the term experience sampling to encompass passive data derived from sources such as smartphones, wearable sensors, the Internet of Things, email and social media that do not require explicit input from participants.[13] These methods can be advantageous as they impose less demand on participants improving compliance and allowing data to be collected for much longer periods, are less likely to change the behaviour being studied and allow data to be sampled at much higher rates and with greater precision. Many research questions can benefit from both active and passive forms of experience sampling.

ESM in clinical practice[edit]

Increasingly, ESM is being tested as a clinical monitoring tool in psychiatric and psychological treatments. Patients then use ESM to monitor themselves for several weeks or months and discuss feedback based on their ESM data with their clinician. Patients and clinicians are enthusiastic about the clinical use of ESM.[14] Qualitative studies suggest ESM may increase insight and awareness, help personalize treatments, and improve communication between patient and clinician.[15][16] ESM may be viewed as an improved form of registration and monitoring already often used in psychiatric treatments, and may therefore be an excellent fit. Randomized controlled trials so far show mixed evidence for the efficacy of ESM in improving symptoms and functioning in patients with depression,[17][18] although many more trials in diverse clinical populations are currently underway.[19]

Several tools are being developed to aid clinicians in using personalized ESM diaries in treatment such as PETRA and m-Path. PETRA[20] is a Dutch tool with which patients and clinicians can construct a personalized ESM diary and examine personalized feedback together. PETRA is developed in collaboration with patients and clinicians and integrated in electronic personal health records (PHR) to facilitate easy access. m-Path[21] is a freely accessible flexible platform to facilitate real-time monitoring as well as real-life interventions. Practitioners are able to create new questionnaires and interventions from scratch or can use existing templates shared by the community.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sather T (November 2014). "Experience Sampling Method". ASHA Journals Academy. Retrieved 2021-03-21.
  2. ^ Bolger N, Laurenceau JP (2013). Intensive longitudinal thods: An introduction to diary and experience sampling research. New York, N.Y.: Guilford Press.
  3. ^ Csikszentmihalyi M (July 2014). Validity and Reliability of the Experience-Sampling Method. New York: Springer. p. 322. ISBN 978-94-017-9087-1.
  4. ^ Krieke LV, Jeronimus BF, Blaauw FJ, Wanders RB, Emerencia AC, Schenk HM, et al. (June 2016). "HowNutsAreTheDutch (HoeGekIsNL): A crowdsourcing study of mental symptoms and strengths". International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research. 25 (2): 123–44. doi:10.1002/mpr.1495. PMC 6877205. PMID 26395198.
  5. ^ Hektner, Joel M. (2007). Experience sampling method : measuring the quality of everyday life. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. pp. 7–9. ISBN 978-1-4129-4923-1.
  6. ^ Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly; Larson, Reed; Prescott, Suzanne (1 September 1977). "The ecology of adolescent activity and experience". Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 6 (3): 281–294. doi:10.1007/BF02138940. ISSN 1573-6601. PMID 24408457. S2CID 23892740.
  7. ^ Prescott, Suzanne; Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly; Graef, Ronald (1981). "Environmental effects on cognitive and affective states: The experiential time sampling approach". Social Behavior and Personality. 9 (1): 23–32. doi:10.2224/sbp.1981.9.1.23.
  8. ^ Hektner JM, Schmidt JA, Csikszentmihalyi M, eds. (2007). Experience sampling method : measuring the quality of everyday life. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1-4129-2557-0.
  9. ^ Stieger, S., & Reips, U. D. (2019). Well-being, smartphone sensors, and data from open-access databases: A mobile experience sampling study. Field Methods, 31(3), 277-291. doi:10.1177/1525822X18824281
  10. ^ Akay, A., & Martinsson, P. (2009). Sundays are blue: Aren't they? The day-of-the-week effect on subjective well-being and socio-economic status. IZA Discussion Paper No. 4563. https://ssrn.com/abstract=1506315 (accessed May 19, 2021).
  11. ^ van der Krieke L, Blaauw FJ, Emerencia AC, Schenk HM, Slaets JP, Bos EH, et al. (2016). "Temporal Dynamics of Health and Well-Being: A Crowdsourcing Approach to Momentary Assessments and Automated Generation of Personalized Feedback". Psychosomatic Medicine. 79 (2): 213–223. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000378. PMID 27551988. S2CID 10955232.
  12. ^ Stieger, S., Lewetz, D., & Reips, U. D. (2018). Can smartphones be used to bring computer-based tasks from the lab to the field? A mobile experience-sampling method study about the pace of life. Behavior research methods, 50(6), 2267-2275.
  13. ^ Nielson DM, Smith TA, Sreekumar V, Dennis S, Sederberg PB (September 2015). "Human hippocampus represents space and time during retrieval of real-world memories". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 112 (35): 11078–83. Bibcode:2015PNAS..11211078N. doi:10.1073/pnas.1507104112. PMC 4568259. PMID 26283350.
  14. ^ Bos FM, Snippe E, Bruggeman R, Wichers M, van der Krieke L (November 2019). "Insights of Patients and Clinicians on the Promise of the Experience Sampling Method for Psychiatric Care". Psychiatric Services. 70 (11): 983–991. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201900050. PMID 31434558.
  15. ^ Bos FM, Snippe E, Bruggeman R, Doornbos B, Wichers M, van der Krieke L (December 2020). "Recommendations for the use of long-term experience sampling in bipolar disorder care: a qualitative study of patient and clinician experiences". International Journal of Bipolar Disorders. 8 (1): 38. doi:10.1186/s40345-020-00201-5. PMC 7704990. PMID 33258015.
  16. ^ Frumkin MR, Piccirillo ML, Beck ED, Grossman JT, Rodebaugh TL (April 2021). "Feasibility and utility of idiographic models in the clinic: A pilot study". Psychotherapy Research. 31 (4): 520–534. doi:10.1080/10503307.2020.1805133. PMC 7902742. PMID 32838671.
  17. ^ Kramer I, Simons CJ, Hartmann JA, Menne-Lothmann C, Viechtbauer W, Peeters F, et al. (February 2014). "A therapeutic application of the experience sampling method in the treatment of depression: a randomized controlled trial". World Psychiatry. 13 (1): 68–77. doi:10.1002/wps.20090. PMC 3918026. PMID 24497255.
  18. ^ Bastiaansen JA, Ornée DA, Meurs M, Oldehinkel AJ (December 2020). "An evaluation of the efficacy of two add-on ecological momentary intervention modules for depression in a pragmatic randomized controlled trial (ZELF-i)". Psychological Medicine: 1–10. doi:10.1017/S0033291720004845. PMID 33315003.
  19. ^ Riese H, von Klipstein L, Schoevers RA, van der Veen DC, Servaas MN (March 2021). "Personalized ESM monitoring and feedback to support psychological treatment for depression: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial (Therap-i)". BMC Psychiatry. 21 (1): 143. doi:10.1186/s12888-021-03123-3. PMC 7945664. PMID 33691647.
  20. ^ "PETRA". Retrieved 2021-04-14.
  21. ^ m-Path. "m-Path". m-path.io. Retrieved 2021-04-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)