Learning Objectives

List the various varieties of observational study methods and also distinguish between each.Describe the strengths and also weakness of every observational research method. 

What Is Observational Research?

The term observational research is supplied to refer to several different varieties of non-experimental researches in which habits is systematically observed and also recorded. The goal of observational study is to describe a change or collection of variables. More generally, the goal is to achieve a photo of certain characteristics of an individual, group, or setting. As described previously, observational study is non-experimental due to the fact that nothing is manipulated or controlled, and also as such we cannot arrive at causal conclusions utilizing this approach. The data that are built up in observational study studies are frequently qualitative in nature but they may likewise be quantitative or both (mixed-methods). There are several different types of observational approaches that will certainly be explained below.

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Naturalistic Observation

Naturalistic observation is an observational an approach that requires observing people’s behavior in the environment in which it typically occurs. Therefore naturalistic monitoring is a type of ar research (as protest to a kind of laboratory research). Mrs Goodall’s famous research on monkeys is a standard example the naturalistic observation. Dr. Goodall invested three decades observing monkeys in your natural environment in east Africa. She examined such things as chimpanzee’s social structure, mating patterns, gender roles, family members structure, and also care of offspring by observing castle in the wild. However, naturalistic observation could much more simply involve observing shoppers in a grocery store store, youngsters on a school playground, or psychiatric inpatients in their wards. Researchers engaged in naturalistic observation usually do their monitorings as unobtrusively as possible so that participants are not aware that they room being studied. Such strategy is called disguised naturalistic observation. Ethically, this technique is considered to be agree if the participants continue to be anonymous and the behavior occurs in a public setting where civilization would not usually have one expectation of privacy. Grocery shoppers putting items into their purchase carts, because that example, are involved in public behavior that is easily observable by keep employees and other shoppers. For this reason, many researchers would think about it ethically acceptable to watch them because that a study. Top top the various other hand, among the arguments versus the ethicality of the naturalistic observation of “bathroom behavior” discussed earlier in the book is that civilization have a reasonable expectation the privacy even in a public restroom and that this expectation was violated. 

In cases where it is not honest or valuable to conduct disguised naturalistic observation, researchers can conduct undisguised naturalistic observation whereby the participants are made conscious of the researcher presence and monitoring of your behavior. However, one worry with undisguised naturalistic observation is reactivity. Reactivity advert to when a measure transforms participants’ behavior. In the case of undisguised naturalistic observation, the issue with reactivity is that when people know they are being observed and studied, they might act differently than they usually would. This form of reactivity is known as the Hawthorne effect. Because that instance, you may act much in different way in a bar if you recognize that who is observing you and also recording your behaviors and also this would certainly invalidate the study. Therefore disguised observation is less reactive and therefore deserve to have greater validity due to the fact that people space not mindful that their habits are being observed and also recorded. However, we now know that people often come to be used to gift observed and also with time they begin to behave naturally in the researcher’s presence. In other words, end time civilization habituate to being observed. Think around reality reflects like big Brother or Survivor where world are constantly gift observed and recorded. While they might be on your best actions at first, in a reasonably short quantity of time they are flirting, having actually sex, wearing beside nothing, screaming at each other, and occasionally behaving in ways that space embarrassing.

Participant Observation

Another approach to data collection in observational research is participant observation. In participant observation, researcher become energetic participants in the group or case they room studying. Participant observation is very similar to naturalistic monitoring in that it involves observing people’s habits in the atmosphere in i m sorry it frequently occurs. Similar to naturalistic observation, the data that are collected can include interviews (usually unstructured), notes based on their observations and also interactions, documents, photographs, and other artifacts. The only difference between naturalistic observation and participant monitoring is that researchers involved in participant monitoring become active members that the team or cases they are studying. The basic rationale for participant monitoring is that there may be important information the is only obtainable to, or can be understood only by, someone that is an active participant in the group or situation. Prefer naturalistic observation, participant observation have the right to be either disguised or undisguised. In disguised participant observation, the researcher pretend to be members the the social team they room observing and conceal their true identity as researchers.

In a famous example of disguised participant observation, Leon Festinger and also his partner infiltrated a doomsday cult recognized as the Seekers, whose members believed that the apocalypse would happen on December 21, 1954. Interested in studying how members the the team would deal with psychologically when the prophecy certain failed, they carefully recorded the events and also reactions that the cult members in the days before and after the claimed end that the world. Unsurprisingly, the cult members go not offer up their belief but instead convinced themselves that it was their faith and also efforts that saved the human being from destruction. Festinger and also his colleagues later on published a book about this experience, i beg your pardon they provided to highlight the concept of cognitive dissonance (Festinger, Riecken, & Schachter, 1956)<1>.

In contrast with undisguised participant observation, the researchers end up being a part of the team they room studying and also they disclose their true identity as researcher to the group under investigation. When again there are vital ethical problems to think about with disguised participant observation. First no educated consent have the right to be obtained and 2nd deception is gift used. The researcher is deceiving the participants by deliberately withholding information about their motivations because that being a component of the social group they room studying. But sometimes disguised participation is the only means to access a protective team (like a cult). Further, disguised participant monitoring is much less prone come reactivity 보다 undisguised participant observation. 

Rosenhan’s study (1973)<2> of the experience of human being in a psychiatric ward would be thought about disguised participant observation since Rosenhan and also his pseudopatients were admitted into psychiatric hospitals on the pretense of being patients so the they could observe the method that psychiatric patients are treated through staff. The staff and other patients to be unaware of your true identities together researchers.

Another instance of participant observation originates from a study by sociologist Amy Wilkins on a university-based spiritual organization the emphasized exactly how happy that members to be (Wilkins, 2008)<3>. Wilkins invested 12 month attending and participating in the group’s meetings and social events, and also she interviewed several group members. In her study, Wilkins figured out several ways in i m sorry the team “enforced” happiness—for example, by continuous talking around happiness, discouraging the expression of negative emotions, and using pleasure as a way to differentiate themselves from other groups.

One of the primary benefits that participant observation is that the researchers room in a much much better position to understand the viewpoint and also experiences that the human being they room studying when they room a component of the social group. The main limitation v this technique is that the mere visibility of the observer could impact the habits of the civilization being observed. If this is also a issue with naturalistic observation, additional concerns arise as soon as researchers become energetic members of the social team they are studying since that they may change the society dynamics and/or affect the habits of the people they space studying. Similarly, if the researcher acts together a participant observer there deserve to be involves with biases resulting from emerging relationships v the participants. Concretely, the researcher may come to be less objective resulting in much more experimenter bias.

Structured Observation

Another observational technique is structured observation. Below the investigator makes mindful observations of one or an ext specific actions in a particular setting that is much more structured than the settings supplied in naturalistic or participant observation. Often the setting in i m sorry the observations are made is no the herbal setting. Instead, the researcher may observe people in the activities environment. Alternatively, the researcher may observe people in a natural setup (like a great setting) the they have actually structured some way, for circumstances by presenting some specific task participants are to engage in or by introducing a certain social situation or manipulation.

Structured monitoring is very comparable to naturalistic observation and also participant observation in that in every three instances researchers room observing naturally developing behavior; however, the focus in structured monitoring is on collection quantitative quite than qualitative data. Researchers utilizing this method are interested in a limited set that behaviors. This permits them to quantify the actions they room observing. In various other words, structured observation is less an international than naturalistic or participant observation because the researcher involved in structured observations is interested in a small number of specific behaviors. Therefore, rather than recording everything that happens, the researcher only concentrates on very specific behaviors the interest.

Researchers Robert Levine and Ara Norenzayan used structured monitoring to study distinctions in the “pace of life” throughout countries (Levine & Norenzayan, 1999)<4>. One of their measures connected observing pedestrians in a large city to see exactly how long it took them to walk 60 feet. They uncovered that world in some countries walked reliably quicker than human being in various other countries. For example, people in Canada and also Sweden extended 60 feet in just under 13 secs on average, while human being in Brazil and also Romania take it close to 17 seconds. When structured observation takes location in the complex and even chaotic “real world,” the concerns of when, where, and under what problems the observations will be made, and who exactly will be it was observed are important to consider. Levine and Norenzayan described their sampling procedure as follows:

“Male and also female walking rate over a distance of 60 feet to be measured in at the very least two locations in main downtown areas in every city. Measurements were taken throughout main service hours on clean summer days. All places were flat, unobstructed, had broad sidewalks, and were saturated uncrowded to allow pedestrians to move at possibly maximum speeds. To manage for the effects of socializing, just pedestrians go alone to be used. Children, individuals with noticeable physical handicaps, and window-shoppers were not timed. Thirty-five men and also 35 women were timed in many cities.” (p. 186).

Precise specification of the sampling procedure in this way makes data collection controlled for the observers, and also it also provides some regulate over necessary extraneous variables. Because that example, by making their observations on clean summer job in all countries, Levine and Norenzayan regulated for effects of the weather ~ above people’s wade speeds. In Levine and also Norenzayan’s study, measurement was reasonably straightforward. They just measured out a 60-foot distance follow me a city sidewalk and also then offered a stopwatch to time participants together they go over the distance.

As an additional example, researcher Robert Kraut and Robert Johnston wanted to research bowlers’ reactions to your shots, both as soon as they were encountering the pins and also then when they turned toward their companions (Kraut & Johnston, 1979)<5>. Yet what “reactions” need to they observe? based upon previous research and their own pilot testing, Kraut and Johnston created a list of reactions that contained “closed smile,” “open smile,” “laugh,” “neutral face,” “look down,” “look away,” and also “face cover” (covering one’s face with one’s hands). The observers committed this perform to memory and also then practiced by coding the reactions of bowlers who had been videotaped. During the yes, really study, the observers spoke into an audio recorder, explicate the reactions they observed. Amongst the most exciting results that this examine was that bowlers seldom smiled while castle still faced the pins. They to be much an ext likely to laugh after they turned toward their companions, suggesting that smiling is no purely an expression of happiness but also a form of social communication.

In yet another example (this one in a laboratory environment), Dov Cohen and also his colleagues had actually observers price the emotional reactions of entrants who had just to be deliberately bumped and also insulted by a confederate after they dropped off a completed questionnaire in ~ the finish of a hallway. The confederate was posing as someone who operated in the very same building and also who to be frustrated by having to close a document drawer double in stimulate to permit the participants to walk previous them (first come drop turn off the questionnaire at the end of the hallway and once again top top their method back to the room where they believed the research they signed up for was acquisition place). The 2 observers to be positioned at various ends of the hallway so the they can read the participants’ human body language and also hear noþeles they might say. Interestingly, the researcher hypothesized that participants native the southern United States, which is among several areas in the human being that has actually a “culture the honor,” would react with more aggression 보다 participants indigenous the northern United States, a prediction that was in truth supported by the observational data (Cohen, Nisbett, Bowdle, & Schwarz, 1996)<6>.

When the monitorings require a judgment on the component of the observers—as in the studies by Kraut and Johnston and Cohen and also his colleagues—a procedure referred to together coding is commonly required. Coding normally requires clearly defining a set of target behaviors. The observers climate categorize entrants individually in regards to which actions they have engaged in and the number of times they engaged in each behavior. The observers could even document the expression of each behavior. The target habits must be defined in such a way that guides different observers to code them in the very same way. This difficulty with coding illustrates the problem of interrater reliability, as stated in chapter 4. Researchers space expected to demonstrate the interrater dependability of your coding procedure by having multiple raters password the same habits independently and then mirroring that the various observers are in nearby agreement. Kraut and Johnston, for example, video recorded a subset of their participants’ reactions and also had two observers separately code them. The two observers proved that castle agreed top top the reactions that were displayed 97% of the time, indicating great interrater reliability.

One the the major benefits the structured monitoring is the it is far an ext efficient than naturalistic and participant observation. Since the researchers are concentrated on particular behaviors this to reduce time and also expense. Also, regularly times the atmosphere is structured come encourage the behaviors of interest which again means that researchers perform not need to invest as much time in wait for the actions of interest to naturally occur. Finally, researchers making use of this method can plainly exert greater control over the environment. However, once researchers exert much more control end the environment it may make the environment less herbal which decreases outside validity. The is much less clear for circumstances whether structured observations made in a laboratory environment will generalize to a real world environment. Furthermore, due to the fact that researchers engaged in structured observation are often not disguised there might be an ext concerns with reactivity.

Case Studies

case study is an in-depth examination of an individual. Sometimes instance studies are additionally completed on social units (e.g., a cult) and also events (e.g., a natural disaster). Most typically in psychology, however, instance studies carry out a detailed summary and evaluation of one individual. Often the individual has a rare or unusual problem or disorder or has damages to a specific an ar of the brain.

Like many observational research study methods, situation studies have tendency to be an ext qualitative in nature. Instance study techniques involve one in-depth, and also often a longitudinal check of an individual. Depending on the emphasis of the situation study, individuals may or might not be it was observed in their organic setting. If the natural setup is no what is that interest, climate the individual may be lugged into a therapist’s office or a researcher’s lab for study. Also, the mass of the instance study report will focus on thorough descriptions that the human rather 보다 on statistics analyses. V that said some quantitative data may additionally be included in the write-up of a instance study. For instance, one individual’s depression score may be compared to normative scores or their score before and also after treatment may be compared. Similar to other qualitative methods, a selection of various methods and also tools deserve to be used to collect information on the case. Because that instance, interviews, naturalistic observation, structured observation, psychological experimentation (e.g., IQ test), and/or physiological measurements (e.g., brain scans) might be used to collect information on the individual.

HM is one of the most notorious situation studies in psychology. HM suffered from intractable and very severe epilepsy. A operated doctor localized HM’s epilepsy to his medial temporal lobe and in 1953 that removed huge sections the his hippocampus in an effort to prevent the seizures. The therapy was a success, in that it resolved his epilepsy and his IQ and personality to be unaffected. However, the doctors soon realized that HM exhibited a strange form of amnesia, dubbed anterograde amnesia. HM to be able to carry out a conversation and he could remember quick strings of letters, digits, and also words. Basically, his brief term memory was preserved. However, HM can not commit brand-new events to memory. He shed the capability to transfer information from his temporary memory to his long term memory, something storage researchers call consolidation. So while he could lug on a conversation through someone, he would completely forget the conversation after it ended. This was really important situation study for storage researchers due to the fact that it argued that there’s a dissociation in between short-term memory and also long-term memory, it said that these were two different abilities sub-served by different locations of the brain. It likewise suggested that the temporal lobes are an especially important for consolidating brand-new information (i.e., because that transferring details from short-lived memory to irreversible memory).

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The background of psychology is filled with influential instances studies, such as Sigmund Freud’s summary of “Anna O.” (see keep in mind 6.1 “The instance of “Anna O.””) and John Watson and also Rosalie Rayner’s summary of small Albert (Watson & Rayner, 1920)<7>, that allegedly learned to are afraid a white rat—along with other furry objects—when the researchers repeatedly made a loud noise every time the rat approached him.