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date: 21 October 2017

Experience Sampling in Lifespan Developmental Methodology

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.

Experience sampling methodology (ESM) is a research technique that captures everyday events and experiences during, or shortly after, their natural occurrence in people’s daily lives. ESM is implemented with mobile devices that participants carry with them as they pursue their everyday routines. Technological advances now allow for customized solutions that use personal mobile phones as interface. Complementing traditional methodologies like retrospective self-reports and experiments, ESM has gained increasing popularity. This upsurge is particularly pronounced in lifespan developmental research, where ESM unlocks both conceptual and methodological advances. ESM collects micro-longitudinal data that allows researchers to address questions of within-person variability and change, and to investigate mechanisms underlying developmental processes. Additionally, ESM has the potential to ameliorate some of the methodological challenges imposed by age-comparative designs. Compared with experimental paradigms, ESM offers enhanced ecological validity, a key concern when investigating different age groups that may differentially respond to artificial deviations from their everyday environment. Compared to retrospective self-reports, ESM can furthermore reduce methodological artifacts caused by age-differential memory biases.