Uncovering the Dynamics of Emotion Regulation and Dysfunction in Daily Life with Ecological Momentary Assessment



The Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) method permits researchers to overcome some of the limitations of typical self-report methods and enable study of the dynamics of experiences and behaviors as they occur over time and across settings in daily life. Since Myin-Germeys and colleagues (Psychological Medicine:1533–1547, 2009) recently published an excellent general overview of EMA applications in psychopathology research, this chapter focuses specifically on EMA applications for understandingemotion in psychopathology. We briefly survey EMA methods developed over the past 30 years. Next, we explain the utility of using EMA to study emotional functioning, highlighting selected areas in emotion research where the potential of EMA modalities for clinical description, assessment, and clinical interventions are beginning to be realized. Our discussion of applications draws upon our own work with mood and anxiety disorders. Finally, we discuss the promise of EMA for improving the assessment and treatment of emotional disorders, as well as highlighting several priority areas for future investigation.


Heart Rate Variability Negative Affect Anxiety Disorder Positive Affect Emotion Regulation 


  1. Anderson, P., Jacobs, C., & Rothbaum, B. O. (2004). Computer-supported cognitive behavioral treatment of anxiety disorders.Journal of Clinical Psychology,60, 253–267.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baer, L., Minichiello, W. E., & Jenike, M. A. (1987). Use of a portable-computer program in behavioral treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder.The American Journal of Psychiatry,144, 1101.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Baer, L., Minichiello W. E., Jenike M. A. & Holland A. (1988). Use of a portable computer program to assist behavioral tratement in a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder.Journal of Behavior Research and Therapy, 19, 237–240.Google Scholar
  4. Barge-Schaapveld, D. Q., & Nicolson, N. A. (2002). Effects of antidepressant treatment on the quality of daily life: An experience sampling study.The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,63, 477–485.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barge-Schaapveld, D. Q., Nicolson, N. A., van der Hoop, R. G., & de Vries, M. W. (1995). Changes in daily life experience associated with clinical improvement in depression.Journal of Affective Disorders,34, 139–154.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barrett, L. F. (1998). Discrete emotions or dimensions? The role of valence focus and arousal focus.Cognition & Emotion,12, 579–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barrett, L. F., & Barrett, D. J. (2001). An introduction to computerized experience sampling in psychology.Social Science Computer Review,19, 175–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barrett, L. F., Gross, J., Christensen, T. C., & Benvenuto, M. (2001). Knowing what you’re feeling and knowing what to do about it: Mapping the relation between emotion differentiation and emotion regulation.Cognition & Emotion,15, 713–724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Barrett, L. F., Robin, L., Pietromonaco, P. R., & Eyssell, K. M. (1998). Are women the “more emotional” sex? Evidence from emotional experiences in social context.Cognition & Emotion,12, 555–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Brown, G. K. (1996).BDI-II manual. San Antonio: The Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  11. Bolger, N., & Schilling, E. A. (1991). Personality and the problems of everyday life: The role of neuroticism in exposure and reactivity to daily stressors.Journal of Personality,59, 355–386.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brown, L. H., Silvia, P. J., Myin-Germeys, I., & Kwapil, T. R. (2007). When the need to belong goes wrong: The expression of social anhedonia and social anxiety in daily life.Psychological Science: A Journal of the American Psychological Society/APS,18, 778–782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bryk, A. S., & Raudenbush, S. W. (1992). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  14. Bylsma, L. M., Clift, A., & Rottenberg, R. (in press). Emotional reactivity to daily events in major and minor depression.Journal of Abnormal Psychology.Google Scholar
  15. Bylsma, L. M., Morris, B. H., & Rottenberg, J. (2008). A meta-analysis of emotional reactivity in major depressive disorder.Clinical Psychology Review,28, 676–691.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Carstensen, L. L., Pasupathi, M., Mayr, U., & Nesselroade, J. R. (2000). Emotional experience in everyday life across the adult life span.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,79, 644–655.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Christensen, T. C., Barrett, L. F., BlissMoreau, E., Lebo, K., & Kaschub, C. (2003). A practical guide to experience-sampling procedures.Journal of Happiness Studies,4, 53–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Clark, L. A., Watson, D., & Leeka, J. (1989). Diurnal variation in the positive affects.Motivation and Emotion,13, 205–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cohen, L. H., Gunthert, K. C., Butler, A. C., Parrish, B. P., Wenze, S. J., & Beck, J. S. (2008). Negative affective spillover from daily events predicts early response to cognitive therapy for depression.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,76, 955–965.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Conrad, A., Wilhelm, F. H., Roth, W. T., Spiegel, D., & Taylor, C. B. (2008). Circadian affective, cardiopulmonary, and cortisol variability in depressed and nondepressed individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease.Journal of Psychiatric Research,42, 769–777.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Hunter, J. (2003). Happiness in everyday life: The uses of experience sampling.Journal of Happiness Studies,4, 185–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cutler, S. E., Larsen, R. J., & Bunce, S. C. (1996). Repressive coping style and the experience and recall of emotion: A naturalistic study of daily affect.Journal of Personality,64, 379–405.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Daimon, K., Yamada, N., Tsujimoto, T., & Takahashi, S. (1992). Circadian rhythm abnormalities of deep body temperature in depressive disorders.Journal of Affective Disorders,26, 191–198.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Delespaul, P., deVries, M., & van Os, J. (2002). Determinants of occurrences and recovery from hallucinations in daily life.Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 39, 97–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. de Vries, M. W., & Delespaul, P. A. (1989). Time, context, and subjective experiences in schizophrenia.Schizophrenia Bulletin,15, 233–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fahrenberg, J., & Myrtek, M. (2001).Progress in ambulatory assessment: Computer-assisted psychological and psychophysiological methods in monitoring and field studies. Kirkland, WA: Hogrefe and Huber.Google Scholar
  27. Fleeson, W. (2001). Toward a structure- and process-integrated view of personality: Traits as density distributions of states.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,80, 1011–1027.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., & Elliot, A. J. (2000). Behavioral activation and inhibition in everyday life.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,78, 1135–1149.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gross, J. J., Richards, J. M., & John, O. P. (2006). Emotion regulation in everyday life. In D. K. Snyder, J. A. Simpson, & J. N. Hughes (Eds.),Emotion regulation in families: Pathways to dysfunction and health. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  30. Gross, J. J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: An integrative review.Review of General Psychology,2, 271–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gross, J. J. (2002). Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive, and social consequences.Psychophysiology,39, 281–291.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gruber, K., Moran, P. J., Roth, W. T., & Taylor, C. B. (2001). Computer-assisted cognitive behavioral group therapy for social phobia.Behavior Therapy,32, 155–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gwaltney, C. J., Shiffman, S., & Sayette, M. A. (2005). Situational correlates of abstinence self-efficacy.Journal of Abnormal Psychology,114, 649–660.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hall, D. P. Jr, Sing, H. C., & Romanoski, A. J. (1991). Identification and characterization of greater mood variance in depression.The American Journal of Psychiatry,148, 1341–1345.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Hammersley, R. (1994). A digest of memory phenomena for addiction research.Addiction,89, 283–293.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Havermans, R., Nicolson, N. A., & deVries, M. W. (2007). Daily hassles, uplifts, and time use in individuals with bipolar disorder in remission.The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 195, 745–751.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hibbert, G., & Pilsbury, D. (1988). Hyperventilation in panic attacks. Ambulant monitoring of transcutaneous carbon dioxide.The British Journal of Psychiatry: The Journal of Mental Science,153, 76–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hibbert, G., & Pilsbury, D. (1989). Hyperventilation: Is it a cause of panic attacks?The British Journal of Psychiatry: The Journal of Mental Science,155, 805–809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Horan, W. P., Green, M. F., Kring, A. M., & Nuechterlein, K. H. (2006). Does anhedonia in schizophrenia reflect faulty memory for subjectively experienced emotions?Journal of Abnormal Psychology,115, 496–508.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kahneman, D., Krueger, A. B., Schkade, D. A., Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. A. (2004). A survey method for characterizing daily life experience: The day reconstruction method.Science,306, 1776–1780.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kashdan, T. B., & Collins, R. L. (2010). Social anxiety and the experience of positive emotions and anger in everyday life: An ecological momentary assessment approach.Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 23, 259–272.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kashdan, T. B., & Steger, M. F. (2006). Expanding the topography of social anxiety: An experience-sampling assessment of positive emotions, positive events, and emotion suppression.Psychological Science,17, 120–128.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kenardy, J., & Adams, C. (1993). Computers in cognitive-behavior therapy.Australian Psychologist, 28, 189–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kernis, M. H. (2005). Measuring self-esteem in context: The importance of stability of self-esteem in psychological functioning.Journal of Personality,73, 1569–1605.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kimhy, D., Delespaul, P., Corcoran, C., Ahn, H., Yale, S., & Malaspina, D. (2006). Computerized experience sampling method (ESMc): Assessing feasibility and validity among individuals with schizophrenia.Journal of Psychiatric Research,40, 221–230.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Knouse, L. E., Mitchell, J. T., Brown, L. H., Silvia, P. J., Kane, M. J., Myin-Germeys, I., et al. (2008). The expression of adult ADHD symptoms in daily life: An application of experience sampling methodology.Journal of Attention Disorders,11, 652–663.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Larson, R., & Delespaul, P. (1992). Analyzing experience sampling data: A guidebook for the perplexed. In M. V. de Vries (Ed.),The experience of psychopathology: Investigating mental disorders in their natural settings (pp. 58–78). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Marco, C. A., & Suls, J. (1993). Daily stress and the trajectory of mood: Spillover, response assimilation, contrast, and chronic negative affectivity.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,64, 1053–1063.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Murray, G., Allen, N. B., & Trinder, J. (2002). Mood and the circadian system: Investigation of a circadian component in positive affect.Chronobiology International,19, 1151–1169.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Murray, G. (2007). Diurnal mood variation in depression: A signal of disturbed circadian function?Journal of Affective Disorders,102, 47–53.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Myin-Germeys, I., Delespaul, P.A.E.G., deVries, M. W. (2000). Schizopherenia patients are more emotionally active than is assumed on their behavior.Schizophrenia Bulletin, 26, 847–854.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Myin-Germeys, I., Nicolson, N. A. & Delespaul, P.A.E.G.. (2001). The context of delusional experiences in the daily life of patients with schizophreina.Psychological Medicine, 31, 489–498.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Myin-Germeys, I., Oorschot, M., Collip, D., Lataster, J., Delespaul, P., & van Os, J. (2009). Experience sampling research in psychopathology: Opening the black box of daily life.Psychological Medicine,39, 1533–1547.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Myin-Germeys, I., Krabbendam, L., Jolles, J., Delespaul, P. A., & van Os, J. (2002). Are cognitive impairments associated with sensitivity to stress in schizophrenia? An experience sampling study.American Journal of Psychiatry,159, 443–449.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Myin-Germeys, I., Peeters, F., Havermans, R., Nicolson, N. A., de Vries, M. W., Delespaul, P., et al. (2003). Emotional reactivity to daily life stress in psychosis and affective disorder: An experience sampling study.Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica,107, 124–131.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Nesse, R. M. (2000). Is depression an adaptation?Archives of General Psychiatry,57, 14–20.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Newman, M. G., Kenardy, J., Herman, S., & Taylor, C. B. (1996). The use of hand-held computers as an adjunct to congntive-behavior therapy.Computes in Human Behavior, 12, 135–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Newman, M. G., Kenardy, J., Herman, S., & Taylor, C. B. (1997). Comparison of palmtop-computer-assisted brief cognitive-behavioral treatment to cognitive-behavioral treatment for panic disorder.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,65, 178–183.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Newman, M. G., Consoli, A. J., & Taylor, C. B. (1999). A palmtop computer program for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder.Behavior Modification,23, 597–619.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Newman, M. G. (1999). The clinical use of palmtop computers in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder.Congnitive and Behavioral Practice,6, 222–234.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Peeters, F., Berkhof, J., Rottenberg, J., & Nicolson, N. A. Ambulatory emotional reactivity to daily life events predicts the eighteen-month course of major depressive disorder.Google Scholar
  62. Peeters, F., Berkhof, J., Rottenberg, J., & Nicolson, N. A. (2010). Ambulatory emotional reactivity to negative daily life events predicts remission from major depressive disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48, 754-760.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Peeters, F., Nicholson, N. A., & Berkhof, J. (2003). Cortisol responses to daily events in major depressive disorder.Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 836–841.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Peeters, F., Nicolson, N. A., & Berkhof, J. (2004). Levels and variability of daily life cortisol secretion in major depression.Psychiatry Research,126, 1–13.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Peeters, F., Nicolson, N. A., Berkhof, J., Delespaul, P., & de Vries, M. (2003). Effects of daily events on mood states in major depressive disorder.Journal of Abnormal Psychology,112, 203–211.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Peeters, F., Berkhof, J., Delespaul, P., Rottenberg, J., & Nicolson, N. A. (2006). Diurnal mood variation in major depressive disorder.Emotion,6, 383–391.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Piasecki, T. M., Hufford, M. R., Solhan, M., & Trull, T. J. (2007). Assessing clients in their natural environments with electronic diaries: Rationale, benefits, limitations, and barriers.Psychological Assessment,19, 25–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Proudfoot, J. G. (2004). Computer-based treatment for anxiety and depression: Is it feasible? Is it effective?Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews,28, 353–363.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Proudfoot, J., Ryden, C., Everitt, B., Shapiro, D. A., Goldberg, D., Mann, A., et al. (2004). Clinical efficacy of computerised cognitive-behavioural therapy for anxiety and depression in primary care: Randomised controlled trial.British Journal of Psychiatry,185, 46–54.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Rottenberg, J., & Johnson, S. L. (Eds.) (2007).Emotion and psychopathology: Bridging affective and clinical science. Washington, DC: APA Books.Google Scholar
  71. Rusting, C. L., & Larsen, R. J. (1998). Diurnal patterns of unpleasant mood: Associations with neuroticism, depression, and anxiety.Journal of Personality,66, 85–103.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Schneiders, J., Nicolson, N. A., Berkhof, J., Feron, F. J., van Os, J., & de Vries, M. W. (2006). Mood reactivity to daily negative events in early adolescence: Relationship to risk for psychopathology.Developmental Psychology,42, 543–554.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Schwartz, J. E., Neale, J., Marco, C., Shiffman, S. S., & Stone, A. A. (1999). Does trait coping exist? A momentary assessment approach to the evaluation of traits.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,77, 360–369.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Schwarz, N., & Oyserman, D. (2001). Asking questions about behavior: Cognition, communication, and questionnaire construction.American Journal of Evaluation,22, 127–160.Google Scholar
  75. Scollon, C. N., Diener, E., Oishi, S., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2005). An experience sampling and cross-cultural investigation of the relation between pleasant and unpleasant affect.Cognition & Emotion,19, 27–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Scollon, C. N., Kim-Prieto, C., & Diener, E. (2003). Experience sampling: Promises and pitfalls, strengths and weaknesses.Journal of Happiness Studies,4, 5–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Selmi, P. M., Klein, M. H., Greist, J. H., Sorrell, S. P., & Erdman, H. P. (1990). Computer-administered cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression.The American Journal of Psychiatry,147, 51–56.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Shiffman, S., Stone, A. A., & Hufford, M. R. (2008). Ecological momentary assessment.Annual Review of Clinical Psychology,4, 1–32.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Shiffman, S., Hufford, M., Hickcox, M., Paty, J. A., Gnys, M., & Kassel, J. D. (1997). Remember that? A comparison of real-time versus retrospective recall of smoking lapses.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,65, 292–300.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Silk, J. S., Steinberg, L., & Morris, A. S. (2003). Adolescents’ emotion regulation in daily life: Links to depressive symptoms and problem behavior.Child Development, 37, 97–104.Google Scholar
  81. Steger, M. F., Kashdan, T. B., & Oishi, S. (2008). Being good by doing good: Daily eudaimonic activity and well-being.Journal of Research in Personality,42, 22–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Stone, A. A., Broderick, J. E., Shiffman, S. S., & Schwartz, J. E. (2004). Understanding recall of weekly pain from a momentary assessment perspective: Absolute agreement, between- and within-person consistency, and judged change in weekly pain.Pain,107, 61–69.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Stone, A. A., Kennedy-Moore, E., & Neale, J. M. (1995). Association between daily coping and end-of-day mood.Health Psychology,14, 341–349.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Swendsen, J. D. (1997). Anxiety, depression, and their comorbidity: An experience sampling test of the helplessness-hopelessness theory.Cognitive Therapy and Research,21, 97–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. van Eck, M., Nicolson, N. A., & Berkhof, J. (1998). Effects of stressful daily events on mood states: Relationship to global perceived stress.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,75, 1572–1585.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Verduyn, P., Delvaux, E., Van Coillie, H., Tuerlinckx, F., & Van Mechelen, I. (2009). Predicting the duration of emotional experience: Two experience sampling studies.Emotion,9, 83–91.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. von Zerssen, D., Barthelmes, H., Dirlich, G., Doerr, P., Emrich, H. M., von Lindern, L., et al. (1985). Circadian rhythms in endogenous depression.Psychiatry Research,16, 51–63.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Watson, D., Wiese, D., Vaidya, J., & Tellegen, A. (1999). The two general activation systems of affect: Structural findings, evolutionary considerations, and psychobiological evidence.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,76, 820–838.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Wichers, M., Myin-Germeys, I., Jacobs, N., Peeters, F., Kenis, G., Derom, C., et al. (2007a). Genetic risk of depression and stress-induced negative affect in daily life.The British Journal of Psychiatry: The Journal of Mental Science,191, 218–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Wichers, M. C., Myin-Germeys, I., Jacobs, N., Peeters, F., Kenis, G., Derom, C., et al. (2007b). Evidence that moment-to-moment variation in positive emotions buffer genetic risk for depression: A momentary assessment twin study.Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica,115, 451–457.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Wilhelm, P., & Schoebi, D. (2007). Assessing mood in daily life: Structural validity, sensitivity to change, and reliability of a short-scale to measure three basic dimensions of mood.European Journal of Psychological Assessment,23, 258–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Wright, J. H., Wright, A. S., Albano, A. M., Basco, M. R., Goldsmith, L. J., Raffield, T., et al. (2005). Computer-assisted cognitive therapy for depression: Maintaining efficacy while reducing therapist time.The American Journal of Psychiatry,162, 1158–1164.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Zelenski, J. M., & Larsen, R. J. (2000). The distribution of basic emotions in everyday life: A state and trait perspective from experience sampling data.Journal of Research in Personality,34, 178–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer New York 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mood and Emotion LaboratoryUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA

Personalised recommendations