Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Experience sampling research in psychopathology: opening the black box of daily life

I. Myin-Germeysa1a2a3 c1, M. Oorschota1, D. Collipa1, J. Latastera1, P. Delespaula1 and J. van Osa1a4

a1 Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, South Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, EURON, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

a2 Section Social Cognition, Mondriaan Zorggroep, Heerlen, The Netherlands

a3 School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, UK

a4 Division of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK


A growing body of research suggests that momentary assessment technologies that sample experiences in the context of daily life constitute a useful and productive approach in the study of behavioural phenotypes and a powerful addition to mainstream cross-sectional research paradigms. Momentary assessment strategies for psychopathology are described, together with a comprehensive review of research findings illustrating the added value of daily life research for the study of (1) phenomenology, (2) aetiology, (3) psychological models, (4) biological mechanisms, (5) treatment and (6) gene–environment interactions in psychopathology. Overall, this review shows that variability over time and dynamic patterns of reactivity to the environment are essential features of psychopathological experiences that need to be captured for a better understanding of their phenomenology and underlying mechanisms. The Experience Sampling Method (ESM) allows us to capture the film rather than a snapshot of daily life reality of patients, fuelling new research into the gene–environment–experience interplay underlying psychopathology and its treatment.

(Received April 17 2008)

(Revised October 16 2008)

(Accepted November 08 2008)

(Online publication February 12 2009)


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr I. Myin-Germeys, Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616 (VIJV), 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands. (Email:


† These authors contributed equally to this work.

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