In the Moment: The Benefits of the Experience Sampling Method
One of the key problems in studying how individuals spend their time and how they feel when engaged in specific activities is finding the most efficient and accurate method for recording human behaviors and emotional responses. This can be challenging as people have a tendency to exaggerate time spent on socially desirable activities and underreport time spent on activities viewed as socially undesirable, such as excessive use of alcohol. Whatever method is used for
collecting time use information, it is likely subject to inherent sources of bias. Clearly, a preferable method would be direct and unobtrusive observations of human life, such as using some type of hidden surveillance device to record individual behaviors throughout the course of a day. While likely to be the most ace urate for measuring time use, this method, even with the respondent's approval, raises ethical issues as weil as being logistically problematic and prohibitively expensive. When people know they are being observed, they may change their behaviors, thus producing nontypical estimates of their time use. However. there are some studies that involve extensive videography that have been able to overcome this problem (see Ochs, this volume). When participants become accustomed to the researcher's presence, they are less likely to be defensive and alter their behavior. Over time, the camera is hardly noticeable and becomes an unobtrusive part of the environment.