Raika Bourmand


Introduction: Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) is a real-time data capture longitudinal methodology which is conducted through smartphones or wearable sensors. This methodology uses prompts to gather information on the current state, behavior and experience of a person in their natural environment. The purpose of this study is to explore the feasibility of using EMA as a methodology in measuring behavioural contexts around physical activity.

Utility: EMA is advantageous in reducing recall errors, enhancing the validity of self-reports by actively recording a participant’s dynamic interaction with their environment, while accounting for intra- and inter-personal variation. EMA can provide researchers with more accurate information that is generalizable to real-life routines, and provides insight on processes that can undermine behavior change. Additionally, EMA is convenient due to the omnipresent accessibility of smartphones or related technologies, which are easy to use and can quickly collect data from large populations remotely. The use of EMA can answer researchers’ questions regarding participant current context, affective states, and psychological processes. This can ultimately help create innovative and feasible solutions which can be implemented into participant’s natural environments and daily lives to benefit their physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Challenges: EMA requires smart technology equipment which can be expensive to supply, repair, or replace. Real-time prompts pose the challenge of subjects’ full compliance to prompts, struggling to respond in the case of competing activities, not carrying the device or device malfunctions such as battery drainage or software problems. Moreover, EMA raises concerns in its practicality with low-socioeconomic populations that cannot afford such technology, elderly populations who cannot operate these devices, or clinical populations whose psychopathology may interfere with their responses.

Limitations: The use of EMA is associated with biases concerning ecological validity. For example, consistent prompts on a certain activity may cause an individual to think about the activity more or alter their behavior. In the absence of researchers, it is difficult to verify data reported by participants. It is possible to mitigate such biases by seeking confirmation through reliable sources who are in contact with the participants, to approve a subset of the data.

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