This article reviews the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) as an ambulatory ecological momentary assessment tool for the real-world observation of daily behavior. Technically, the EAR is an audio recorder that intermittently records snippets of ambient sounds while participants go about their lives. Conceptually, it is a naturalistic observation method that yields an acoustic log of a person’s day as it unfolds. The power of the EAR lies in unobtrusively collecting authentic real-life observational data. In preserving a high degree of naturalism at the level of the raw recordings, it resembles ethnographic methods; through its sampling and coding, it enables larger empirical studies. This article provides an overview of the EAR method; reviews its validity, utility, and limitations; and discusses it in the context of current developments in ambulatory assessment, specifically the emerging field of mobile sensing.
- ambulatory assessment
- ecological momentary assessment
- naturalistic observation
- smartphone sensing
ASJC Scopus subject areas