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Quantifying biopsychosocial aspects in everyday contexts: an integrative methodological approach from the behavioral sciences

Authors Portell M, Anguera MT, Hernández-Mendo A, Jonsson G

Received 7 February 2015

Accepted for publication 17 March 2015

Published 5 June 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 153—160

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S82417

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman


Mariona Portell,1 M Teresa Anguera,2 Antonio Hernández-Mendo,3 Gudberg K Jonsson4

1Department of Psychobiology and Methodology of Health Sciences, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain; 2Department of Methodology of Behavioral Sciences, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; 3Department Social Psychology, Social Anthropology, Social Work and Social Services, University of Málaga, Málaga, Spain; 4Human Behavior Laboratory, University of Iceland, Reykjavík, Iceland

Abstract: Contextual factors are crucial for evaluative research in psychology, as they provide insights into what works, for whom, in what circumstances, in what respects, and why. Studying behavior in context, however, poses numerous methodological challenges. Although a comprehensive framework for classifying methods seeking to quantify biopsychosocial aspects in everyday contexts was recently proposed, this framework does not contemplate contributions from observational methodology. The aim of this paper is to justify and propose a more general framework that includes observational methodology approaches. Our analysis is rooted in two general concepts: ecological validity and methodological complementarity. We performed a narrative review of the literature on research methods and techniques for studying daily life and describe their shared properties and requirements (collection of data in real time, on repeated occasions, and in natural settings) and classification criteria (eg, variables of interest and level of participant involvement in the data collection process). We provide several examples that illustrate why, despite their higher costs, studies of behavior and experience in everyday contexts offer insights that complement findings provided by other methodological approaches. We urge that observational methodology be included in classifications of research methods and techniques for studying everyday behavior and advocate a renewed commitment to prioritizing ecological validity in behavioral research seeking to quantify biopsychosocial aspects.

Keywords: experience sampling method, ecological momentary assessment, ambulatory assessment, observational methodology, naturalistic observation

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