Descriptive Experience Sampling Codebook
Manual of Terminology
Russell T. Hurlburt and Christopher L. Heavey
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
May 10, 2006
Copyright 2006 Russell T. Hurlburt, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
Descriptive Experience Sampling is a method of exploring inner experience that seeks simply to describe inner
experience, based on the view that careful descriptions should be the
foundation stones on which subsequent quantification should rest. A complete description of the
method is provided in Hurlburt's 1990 book Sampling Normal and Schizophrenic Inner
The method is summarized in Hurlburt's 1993 book Sampling Inner Experience in Disturbed
Affect. Hurlburt and Chris Heavey's 2006 book Exploring Inner Experience describes in detail how to do the method. The subject carries a small beeper that beeps at random intervals. The subject's task is
to "freeze" her ongoing experience and to write a brief description of it in a notebook. We are not
particularly interested in any explanation of the thoughts or other experiences; we simply wish
her to describe that particular inner experience as it naturally occurred. After she has collected
six or eight samples, the subject meets with us for an extended conversation about those
samples. This sample and discussion process is then repeated the next day, and is repeated
again until we think we have obtained an adequate number of samples. At the conclusion of the
sampling period, we identify the salient characteristics of the complete set of samples.
Prospective subjects for this procedure frequently attempt an informal version of the
procedure in anticipation of their participation, asking themselves on occasion, for example,
"What am I thinking right now?" Such informal attempts are nearly always discouraging, leading
the typical subject to believe, prior to sampling, that he or she will be unable to perform the
sampling task. However, we have found that most subjects find the actual sampling task to be
quite easy and unambiguous.
Because it is primarily descriptive, the
method is fundamentally idiographic -- that is, it describes unique characteristics
of particular individuals.
However, some phenomena turn out to be identical or at least very similar between individuals,
so it makes sense to use the same terminology in such cases. This manual provides
the means for identifying the following characteristics: