Opportunities with Mobile Technology
What is Experience Sampling/Ecological Momentary Assessment?
Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA), or experience sampling, involves repeatedly gathering information from people as they go about their day. By asking the same questions at various times of the day, and in different contexts, we can see how their experiences vary. We can also better understand the factors related to these variations (like time of day, location, previous experiences, interactions with others, etc.). We can begin to see patterns in people’s daily lives that would otherwise be missed.
For example, a recent EMA study found that being the “target” of a moral act had a greater effect on peoples’ moods, while performing a moral act had a greater impact on their sense of purpose (Hofmann et al. 2014).
So rather than using a survey to ask “Rate your mood over the past two weeks”, EMA asks “Rate your mood right now” at several points throughout the day. It provides a way of getting information about what may be impacting a person’s mood at various points in time.
Survey vs. EMA
As research continues to show, there are multiple benefits to EMA over traditional survey approaches (see Shiffman, Stone & Hufford, 2008). Traditional surveys are like a photo, capturing a moment in time, but not allowing us to see things unfold. Additionally, surveys often ask people general questions about previous days, weeks or months. And memory limitations can cause survey-takers to provide unreliable information. So the pictures of life that surveys provide are often “blurry.”
Crombag, H.S., Bossert, J.M., Koya, E. and Shaham, Y. (2008). Context-induced relapse to drug seeking: a review. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363, 3233-3243.
Hofmann, W., Wisneski, D., Brandt, M., Skitka, L. (2014). Morality in everyday life. Science, 345, 1340-43.
Miller, G. (2012). The smartphone psychology manifesto. Perspectives in Psychological Science, 7, 221-237.
Runyan, J. D., Steenbergh, T. S., Bainbridge, C., Daugherty, D. A., Oke, L., & Fry, B. N. (2013). A smartphone ecological momentary assessment/intervention “app” for collecting real-time data and promoting self-awareness. PLOS One. Available here.
Rydell, R.J., and Gawronski, B. (2009). I like you, I like you not: Understanding the formation of context-dependent automatic attitudes. Cognition and Emotion 23, 1118-1152.
Shiffman, S., Stone, A. A., & Hufford, M. R. (2008). Ecological momentary assessment. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 4, 1-32.