Experience sampling research in psychopathology: opening the black box of daily life

Psychol Med. 2009 Sep;39(9):1533-47. doi: 10.1017/S0033291708004947. Epub 2009 Feb 12.


A growing body of research suggests that momentary assessment technologies that sample experiences in the context of daily life constitute a useful and productive approach in the study of behavioural phenotypes and a powerful addition to mainstream cross-sectional research paradigms. Momentary assessment strategies for psychopathology are described, together with a comprehensive review of research findings illustrating the added value of daily life research for the study of (1) phenomenology, (2) aetiology, (3) psychological models, (4) biological mechanisms, (5) treatment and (6) gene-environment interactions in psychopathology. Overall, this review shows that variability over time and dynamic patterns of reactivity to the environment are essential features of psychopathological experiences that need to be captured for a better understanding of their phenomenology and underlying mechanisms. The Experience Sampling Method (ESM) allows us to capture the film rather than a snapshot of daily life reality of patients, fuelling new research into the gene-environment-experience interplay underlying psychopathology and its treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology*
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Arousal
  • Bias
  • Computers, Handheld*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Environment*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thinking
  • Treatment Outcome