Sampling of experience
In recent years a growing number of investigators have sought information on the daily events and experiences that make up people's lives. Pervin (1985) identified the ‘increasing use of beeper technology’ as a research methodology in which signaling devices carried by respondents are used to elicit self-report data at randomized points in time. One of the earliest lines of investigation using pagers to stimulate self-reports began at the University of Chicago in 1975, under the name of ‘Experience Sampling Method’ (Csikszentmihalyi et al., 1977). The general purpose of this methodology is to study the subjective experience of persons interacting in natural environments, as advocated by Lewin (1936) and Murray (1938), in a way that ensures ecological validity (Brunswick, 1952). The need for this kind of approach arises from research demonstrating the inability of people to provide accurate retrospective information on their daily activities (Bernard et al., 1984; Juster, 1985; Yarmey, 1979) and emotional experience (Thomas & Diener, 1989). Its goal is similar to the one Fiske (1971, p. 179) set out for psychology as a whole: ‘to measure … the ways a person usually behaves, the regularities in perceptions, feelings and actions.’
The objective of the research described in this chapter is to sample experience systematically, hence the name Experience Sampling Method (ESM). The present article describes ESM and reports on its reliability and validity, using findings from a number of studies.