Ecological momentary assessment.
Assessment in clinical psychology typically relies on global retrospective self-reports collected at research or clinic visits, which are limited by recall bias and are not well suited to address how behavior changes over time and across contexts. Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) involves repeated sampling of subjects' current behaviors and experiences in real time, in subjects' natural environments. EMA aims to minimize recall bias, maximize ecological validity, and allow study of microprocesses that influence behavior in real-world contexts. EMA studies assess particular events in subjects' lives or assess subjects at periodic intervals, often by random time sampling, using technologies ranging from written diaries and telephones to electronic diaries and physiological sensors. We discuss the rationale for EMA, EMA designs, methodological and practical issues, and comparisons of EMA and recall data. EMA holds unique promise to advance the science and practice of clinical psychology by shedding light on the dynamics of behavior in real-world settings.