Behavior is central to psychology in almost any definition. Although the observable activity is a core aspect of behavior, assessment strategies have tended to focus on emotional, cognitive or physiology responses. When physical activity is assessed it is done so mostly with questionnaires. Converging evidence of only a moderate association between self-reports of physical activity and objectively measured physical activity does raise questions about the validity of these self-reports.
Ambulatory activity monitoring, defined as the measurement strategy to assess physical activity, posture and movement patterns continuously in every day life, has made major advances over the last decade and has considerable potential for further application in the assessment of observable activity, a core aspect of behavior. With new piezoresistive sensors and advanced computer algorithms, the objective measurement of physical activity, posture and movement is much more easily achieved and measurement precision has improved tremendously.
According to Ulrich W. Ebner-Priemer, the director of the behavior monitoring group, the main challenge is the implementation of psychobehavioral recorder-analyzer-systems, which continuously analyze behavior pattern in daily life and provide participants with feedback on how to change their behavioral pattern. The behavioral monitoring group runs cooperative research projects on behavior monitoring with several university partners (Central Institute of Mental Heath, Mannheim; University of Washington, Seattle; University of Stuttgart; University of Potsdam; University of Dresden) investigating students, healthy subjects and patient groups. Ulrich W. Ebner-Priemer published multiple research papers on ambulatory assessment and behavior monitoring and organized and/or edited special issues and special sections an ambulatory assessment in international peer-reviewed journals (European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 2007; European Psychologist, 2009; Psychological Assessment, 2009). He is a founding member and general secretary of the international Society
for Ambulatory Assessment (http://www.ambulatory-assessment.org/) and has organized multiple symposia and conferences on ambulatory assessment and behavior monitoring.
Although still to achieve main stream status, ambulatory activity monitoring especially in combination with the simultaneous assessment of emotions, mood, or physiological variables provides a comprehensive methodology for psychology because of its suitability for explaining behavior in context.