Experience sampling

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Experience sampling or experience sampling method (ESM) refer to set of techniques to capture people's behaviors, thoughts, or feelings as they occur in real-time. This would include "naïve" accounts of critical events but also more "processed" representations.

“Experience-sampling methodologies (ESM), sometimes referred to as “ambulatory self-report” (e.g., Conner & Barrett, 2012) or intensive-longitudinal designs” (e.g., Bolger & Laurenceau, 2013), examine individuals’ experiences and behavior in context.” (Zirkel et al. 2015: 7).

Citation from Tamilin Conner's Experience Sampling Resource Page:

Originally, the term ESM was used to refer to a particular technique involving random signaling of participants during their daily lives, although today ESM is sometimes used more broadly to refer to any procedure that has three qualities -- assessment of experiences in natural settings, in real-time (or close to the occurrence of the experience being reported), and on repeated time occasions. As such, reports can be made in response to a random signal (e.g., emitted by a pager or PDA), at pre-determined times during the day (e.g., daily diary) or following particular events (e.g., interaction with a loved one). Some people refer to ESM in the strict sense (to refer to random signaling sampling), others in the general sense.

Experience sampling is a popular methodology in flow research and according to Conner it was Larson & Csikszentmihalyi (1983) who coined the term experience sampling method.


Web sites

  • ... ?

People and research groups

Tutorials and introductions

Software and services

  • Survey Signal is an easy to use, programming-free web-app designed to conduct mobile experience sampling using participants' own smartphones (regardless of operating systems). It combines a participant signup system and the use of text messages as signals (containing individualized links to smartphone-compatible online surveys).
  • movisensXS is a research tool to assess the ongoing behavior, experience and environmental aspects of humans in everyday life. An easy to use web-based tool even allows designing complex eXperience Sampling studies without doing any programming. Subjective and objective data is captured by the participant with android smartphones.
  • ESP: The Experience Sampling Program: Quote: “SP is a free, open-source software package for running questionnaires, surveys, or experiments on a Palm Pilot or compatible handheld computer. ESP asks questions of your participants and records their answers and their response times. The data may later be uploaded to a computer for analysis. [...]”. ESP works on either Win or Linux and was developed at Boston College by Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett and programmed by Dr. Daniel J. Barrett.
  • MetricWire: MetricWire is a web-based application that allows users to conduct experience sampling studies via smartphones. Researchers are able to send push notification signals, based on time or GPS location, to participants through the MetricWire mobile application. MetricWire also allows the researcher to collect data from the smartphone's onboard sensors (E.g. GPS, Microphone, Ambient Light, Etc.). The platform was developed at the University of Waterloo.


  • Bolger, N., & Laurenceau, J.-P. (2013). Intensive longitudinal research methods: An introduction to diary and experience-sampling research. New York, NY: Guilford Press
  • Conner Christensen, T., Feldman Barrett, L., Bliss-Moreau, E., Lebo, K. & Kaschub, C. (2003). A practical guide to experience-sampling procedures, Journal of Happiness Studies, 4, 53-78. (Good primer - DSchneider)
  • Conner, T. S., Tennen, H., Fleeson, W., & Barrett, L. F. (2009). Experience-sampling methods: A modern idiographic approach to personality research. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3, 292–313. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2009.00170.x
  • Conner, T. S., & Barrett, L. F. (2012). Trends in ambulatory self-report: The role of momentary experience in psychosomatic medicine. Psychosomatic Medicine, 74, 327–337. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e318
  • Eather, N., Morgan, P. J., & Lubans, D. R. (2013). Social support from teachers mediates physical activity behavior change in children participating in the Fit-4-Fun intervention. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10, 1–15 (a mostly experimental study)
  • Hektner, J. M., Schmidt, J. A., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2007). Experience Sampling Method: Measuring the Quality of Everyday Life. Experience Sampling Method Measuring the Quality of Everyday Life (p. 352). Sage Publications Inc.
  • Hektner, J. M., Schmidt, J. A., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2007). Experience-sampling methods: Measuring the quality of everyday life. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Kane, M. J., Brown, H., McVay, J. C., Silvia, P. J., Myin-Germeys, I., & Kwapil, T. R. (2007). For whom the mind wanders, and when: An experience-sampling study of working memory and executive control in daily life. Psychological Science, 18, 614–621
  • Larson, R., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1983). The experience sampling method. New Directions for Methodology of Social and Behavioral Science, 15, 41-56.
  • Matthias R. Mehl and Tamlin S. Conner (2011). (Eds.), Handbook of Research Methods for Studying Daily, Guilford Press, ISBN 978-1-60918-747-7
  • Rathunde, Kevin (1993). Measuring the Experience of Motivation: Contributions of the Experience Sampling Method to Educational Research. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Atlanta, GA, April 12-16, 1993). http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED360372.pdf
  • Salvy SJ, et al: Peer Influence on Children’s Physical Activity: An Experience Sampling Study. J Pediatr Psychol 2008, 33(1):39–49.
  • Shernoff, D. J., Knauth, S., & Makris, E. (2000). The quality of classroom experiences. In M. Csikszentmihalyi & B. Schneider (Eds.), Becoming adult: How teenagers prepare for the world of work (pp. 141–164). New York, NY: Basic Books
  • Zirkel, S., Garcia, J. A., & Murphy, M. C. (2015). Experience-sampling research methods and their potential for education research. Educational Researcher, 44(1), 7-16.