The Experience Sampling Method (ESM) was introduced in the late 1970s by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi and colleagues . It is a systematic approach for capturing experiences and activities of individuals in their ecological context. The ESM was groundbreaking. Social scientists have since recognized the importance of the ESM because much of what makes scientific principles generalizable and applicable is through examining and evaluating it in our day-to-day lives.
Not surprisingly then, there has been a surge of Experience Sampling methodology and design in the social sciences. A quick search on Google Scholar on this topic (“experience sampling”) reveals an exponential increase in the numbers of papers referencing ESM. There has been roughly a five-to-six fold increase in the numbers of academic papers using ESM every decade.
1980-1990: 280 papers
1991-2000: 1,190 papers
2001-2010: 7,810 papers
2010-2016: 16,000 papers
What types of research questions can be examined using ESM and extensions of ESM? The following represents only a small but fascinating sample of research topics that are now enabled by ESM.
Technology-enabled ESM is exciting because we can not only gather information for research purposes but also immediate information that can be used to make practical key decisions within an educational institution, political campaign, or an organization. Further, such a platform can serve to provide feedback to respondents in a timely fashion. Here are some potential applications.
Past ESM used pen-and-paper methods; these provide important information. However, with ExpiWell, we are now providing a seamless integration between web (survey creators) and mobile (participants) apps. This enables us to gather new insights, enhance interactivity between survey creators and participants, and promote a more rigorous approach to science and practice. There are new frontiers of technology-enabled ESM that I am pursuing with ExpiWell that will open new doors for research and practice.
I hope that more social scientists will see the value of ESM and join ExpiWell in using and refining this exciting method. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] should you be interested or have any questions.
1. Csikszentmihalyi M, Larson R, Prescott S: The ecology of adolescent activity and experience. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 1977, 6:281-294.