The Experience Sampling Method (ESM) in the Social Sciences

Dr. Louis Tay
Line divider

The Experience Sampling Method (ESM), introduced in the 1970s by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi and his colleagues, revolutionized how we capture and understand human experiences in natural settings. Since then, ESM has experienced a meteoric rise in its application across social sciences, evidenced by an impressive growth in academic references:

  • 1980-1990: 131,000 Google Scholar results
  • 1991-2000: 373,000 Google Scholar results
  • 2001-2010: 741,000 Google Scholar results
  • 2011-2020: 1,340,000 Google Scholar results

The increasing numbers reflect a broader recognition of the value in examining life as it happens, making ESM a pivotal tool in numerous research domains.

The Expanse of ESM Research

Education: ESM has unveiled layers of student experiences, both in traditional and flipped classrooms, and the dynamics of home study environments.

Clinical: It enables tracking of mood and behavioral patterns, offering insights into situational triggers for therapists and researchers.

Marketing: ESM extends beyond purchase moments, allowing an analysis of long-term product interactions in consumers’ lives.

Organizations: The method is instrumental in gauging employee emotions, influencing factors such as performance, motivation, and the impact of organizational policies.

Politics: ESM tracks the ebb and flow of political attitudes and choices throughout an election cycle, providing real-time voter sentiment analysis.

Practical Implementations with ESM

Real-time ESM data has practical applications that can inform immediate decisions in various settings:

Educational Feedback: ESM facilitates instant feedback for students, which can catalyze skill and character development.

Clinical Insights: For clinicians, ESM offers a means to monitor and give timely feedback to clients, enriching therapeutic interventions.

Marketing and Product Testing: Companies can economically test products in real-world settings and gain richer data on user interaction.

Organizational Health: Regular snapshots of employee wellbeing can inform HR and management about engagement levels and the effects of workplace policies.

Political Campaigning: Real-time analysis of voter reactions and behaviors can strategically guide campaign decisions.

The Digital Transformation of ESM with ExpiWell

Transitioning from pen-and-paper to digital tools like ExpiWell has opened new frontiers for ESM:

  • Multimedia Integration: Incorporating voice, video, and location data into research.
  • Geo-Enabled Studies: Utilizing location data for contextual insights.
  • Targeted Participant Selection: Finding participants who match specific demographic criteria.
  • Health Data Synchronization: Integrating wearable health device data, such as Fitbit.
  • Direct Communication: Allowing survey creators to send push notifications to participants.
  • Business Tools: Offering proprietary HR instruments for organizational research.

Join the ESM Revolution with ExpiWell

ExpiWell is not just adapting to the evolution of ESM; we are actively shaping it. Our platform offers researchers and practitioners an unprecedented level of interactivity and real-time data collection, enhancing both scientific rigor and practical application. We invite social scientists and industry professionals to explore the vast capabilities of ESM with ExpiWell.

For more information or inquiries, reach out to us at, and join us in refining this exciting method for the future of research and practice.


Csikszentmihalyi M, Larson R, Prescott S: The ecology of adolescent activity and experience. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 1977, 6:281-294.

Recent Blogs

October 26, 2021

Release notes: Newly enhanced features (to help improve the work you do)
Read More

April 2, 2024

Incorporating Fitbit Into Ecological Momentary Assessment in Research
Read More

March 29, 2024

ExpiWell’s Researcher in Focus: Catherine McCombie Explores The Daily Experiences Of Life Recovering From Eating Disorder
Read More
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.