Other Forms of Momentary Data Capture

In addition to the paper and electronic diary methods described above, other methods are available for capturing momentary data in the real world, and we briefly mention them here. One method is interactive voice recording or IVR where a dedicated computer is programmed to present questions and response options to participants via telephone. This well-developed technology can be used in several ways, and one common approach is to have participants call the computer at designated times (e.g., the end of the day). Using either the telephone's digital keypad or their own voice, users are instructed to identify themselves and then are taken through a series of verbal questions and, again, with either keypad or voice, are able to provide responses. The system records the time and date of the responses and is capable of the same complex branching of questions as described for high level EDs. The ubiquity of cell phone usage increases the probability of convenient access to the IVR system. In another version of this system, the computer calls participants at designated times for the data collection.

A rapidly growing methodology stemmed from the popularity of the Internet. With this system, researchers develop a questionnaire and program a Web site to present the information to participants. For their part, participants simply access the site and complete the questionnaire, which is time and date stamped. Although serious questions remain regarding the security of such systems for collecting sensitive information, we imagine that such problems will be resolved in the future.

Finally, investigators have developed means of sampling the auditory environment of individuals as they go about their normal activities, including conversations with others as well as ambient sounds (Mehl & Pennebaker, 2003). From these short recordings, made by a specially modified voice-activated tape recorder, the developers purport to be able to derive many indices of the psychological state of the targeted person, the nature of their interactions, and the characteristics of their social environment. Creative uses of technology like this one are exciting.

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