To understand the dynamics of mental health, it is essential to develop measures for the frequency and the patterning of mental processes in every-day-life situations. The Experience-Sampling Method (ESM) is an attempt to provide a valid instrument to describe variations in self-reports of mental processes. It can be used to obtain empirical data on the following types of variables: a) frequency and patterning of daily activity, social interaction, and changes in location; b) frequency, intensity, and patterning of psychological states, i.e., emotional, cognitive, and conative dimensions of experience; c) frequency and patterning of thoughts, including quality and intensity of thought disturbance. The article reviews pratical and methodological issues of the ESM and presents evidence for its short-and long-term reliability when used as an instrument for assessing the variables outlined above. It also presents evidence for validity by showing correlation between ESM measures on the one hand and physiological measures, one-time psychological tests, and behavioral indices on the other. A number of studies with normal and clinical populations that have used the ESM are reviewed to demonstrate the range of issues to which the technique can be usefully applied.
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