Ecological Momentary Assessment: A Systematic Review of Validity Research

Perspect Behav Sci. 2022 May 6;45(2):469-493. doi: 10.1007/s40614-022-00339-w. eCollection 2022 Jun.


Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) is a self-report method that involves intensive longitudinal assessment of behavior and environmental conditions during everyday activities. EMA has been used extensively in health and clinical psychology to investigate a variety of health behaviors, including substance use, eating, medication adherence, sleep, and physical activity. However, it has not been widely implemented in behavior analytic research. This is likely an example of the empirically based skepticism with which behavioral scientists view self-report measures. We reviewed studies comparing electronic, mobile EMA (mEMA) to more objective measures of health behavior to explore the validity of mEMA as a measurement tool, and to identify procedures and factors that may promote the accuracy of mEMA. We identified 32 studies that compared mEMA to more objective measures of health behavior or environmental events (e.g., biochemical measures or automated devices such as accelerometers). Results showed that the correspondence rates varied considerably across individuals, behavior, and studies (agreement rates ranged from 1.8%-100%), and no unifying variables could be identified across the studies that found high correspondence. The findings suggest that mEMA can be an accurate measurement tool, but further research should be conducted to identify procedures and variables that promote accurate responding.

Keywords: ecological momentary assessment; health behavior; mHealth; validity.