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Chapter 12 Studying Patterns in the Natural World: Observational Approaches.

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Presentation on theme: "Chapter 12 Studying Patterns in the Natural World: Observational Approaches."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chapter 12 Studying Patterns in the Natural World: Observational Approaches

2 Scientific Versus Casual Observation Types of Scientific Observation Systematic Observation–Research in which an observer records behavior as it naturally occurs, often in a laboratory as an initial stage in research and prior to development of a hypothesis. Naturalistic Observation–Research in which an observer records naturally occurring behavior without attempts at interpretation or subjective evaluation.

3 Studying Natural Behaviors Types of Naturalistic Observation Particularistic Research–Investigation that focuses on a single, specific question, often oriented toward a practical issue Universalistic Research–Investigation that addresses a general question that extends beyond the specific time and place of the research itself

4 Studying Natural Behaviors Ethology: Research involving the study of behavior, usually of animals, in their natural enviroment Evolutionary Psychology: A relatively new branch of psychology focusing on human behavior from an evolutionary perspective

5 Studying Natural Behavior Perspectives in Interpreting Behavior Anthropomorphism–The attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman animals, such as calling an animal “lonely.” Theromorphism–The attempt to understand the behavior of nonhuman animals by speculating about the behavior within the context of the animal’s perspective.

6 Approaches to Observational Research Practical Steps in Observational Research Investigate approaches others have used. Adopt methods that experts in the area regard as valid Determine details of observation: who will be observed, when will observations occur, where will observation take place Decide on sampling strategy Train observers so that data collection is reliable

7 Approaches to Observational Research Sampling Strategies Continuous Real-Time Measurement–Measurement of the duration of behaviors as they occur Time-Point Sampling–Measurement of the occurrence of a behavior by selecting specific points in time and recording whether the behavior of interest is occurring at that instant Time-Interval Sampling–Measurement of behavior by noting whether it has occurred within a specified time interval or intervals

8 Approaches to Observational Learning Structured and Unstructured Observation – Unstructured Observation: Approach to observational research in which investigators record many different behaviors as they occur – Structured Observation: Approach to observational research in which investigators record a few well-defined behaviors Observational research is difficult because it requires a lot of time and effort to capture behaviors accurately. Practical issues usually determine which approaches are used.

9 Sampling Issues in Observational Research Number of Sampling Blocks – Researchers have to decide how many blocks of time are needed in order to get a valid picture of behaviors of interest. – A small number of blocks can lead to significant inaccuracy in characterizing the behavior being studied. – Observational researchers often sample too few blocks to give an accurate depiction of behaviors because observational research is very time- and labor-intensive.

10 Sampling Issues in Observational Research The degree to which samples showed deviations from the number of instances of actual group activity. Greater error is associated with fewer observations sampled. With only four observation periods, the estimates were off by about 50 percent; with 30 observations, the error fell to about 13 percent.

11 Sampling Issues in Observational Research Methods of Sampling Events During Observational Research MethodResult Sampling at random timesAccurate depiction of how often a behavior occurs Observing only a specific behavior in a specific setting Possible error in estimation of occurrence of the behavior because the behavior in a single setting might not match occurrences in different settings Cluster sampling of behaviors in which behaviors are observed in lengthy clusters Possible error in estimation of behaviors because this approach leads to greater variability in estimation of frequency of occurrence of the behavior One-zero sampling in which the observer records whether a behavior occurs or not and how long it lasts if it does occur Overestimation of how long behaviors last and underestimation of how many times behaviors occur

12 Ethological Observations in Clinical Research Much clinical research involves randomized clinical trials Ethological approaches can be useful, but they require that the researcher spend more time and effort in observing behaviors – Troisi and Moles (1999) used an ethological approach and discovered different patterns of depression for women and men that would not have been apparent with randomized clinical trials or clinical rating scales.

13 Ethological Observations in Clinical Research Differences in level of assertion and submission by depressed men and women compared to controls. The data were collected using an ethological approach that allows coding of behaviors that are not easily obtained with rating scales. Source: Troisa, A., & Moles, A. (1999). Gender differences in depression: An ethological study of nonverbal behavior during interviews. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 33, Reprinted with permission from Elsevier Science.

14 The Human Side of Observational Research Ethics – Observation of public behaviors are considered acceptable without review by an Institutional Review Board – Sometimes the definition of “public” versus “private” is not straightforward – Humphreys (1975) observed anonymous sexual behavior, which is normally private, that occurred in a public restroom between anonymous individuals, which, by its very nature, one could argue is public

15 The Human Side of Observational Research Ethical Issues Concerning the Relationship Between Observer and Participant in Observational Research Researcher Interacts with People Being Observed Researcher Does Not Interact with People Being Observed People Know They Are Being Observed Ethical considerations are minimal as long as those being observed are aware of the nature of the research. Ethical consideration may be minimal if behavior is public. If behaviors are normally considered private, there may be ethical issues, depending on whether those being observed have given consent. People Do Not Know They Are Being Observed The researcher might be invading privacy of the group, deceiving them, and putting them at psychological risk. Ethical considerations may be minimal if behavior is public. Because people do not know they are being observed, they may engage in private behaviors, raising potential ethical issues.

16 Subject Reactivity: The tendency of people being observed to act differently than normal as a result of knowledge of the observation. It is hard to determine when it will occur. – Some research on families (Jacob et al., 1994) discovered little subject reactivity when family discussions were tape recorded – Some research on adolescents (Pepler & Craig, 1995) revealed that the adolescents changed their behaviors when they knew they were being recorded The Human Side of Observational Research

17 Observer Effects – Observer Bias: The tendency on the part of observers to bring their biases and predispositions to the recording of data, a process that may be unintentional – Observer Drift: The unintentional tendency on the part of an observer to change criteria for recording behavior over time You can monitor the possibility of observer drift by monitoring interobserver reliability, how well two observers agree in their coding. The Human Side of Observational Research

18 Ways to Minimize Observer Drift Using well-defined, objective criteria Systematic training of observers Retraining observers periodically Monitoring interobserver reliability Changing pairs of observers to the same people do not always collect data together

19 Controversy: Public Versus Private Sex The Tea Room Trade (Humphreys, 1975) – Men frequented a restroom in a park in order to engage in anonymous homosexual sex – The men would rely on a lookout to tell them if anybody was approaching – The researcher kept notes on what behaviors occurred, used a false story to obtain names and addresses of the men, and went to their homes to interview them for a supposed marketing interview several months later.

20 Controversy: Public Versus Private Sex Ethical Issues “The research was unethical”“The research was ethical” Sex is a private matter and the researcher invaded privacy. The sexual activity was in a public area between any two men who happened to show up, so it was not private. The researcher deceived the men when he said he would act as a lookout. The researcher did act as a lookout and warned the men of people approaching when it happened; he was even arrested while acting as a lookout. The researcher lied to the police about license plate numbers to get addresses of the men. This is deception. The police gave the researcher the information without questioning the false story, indicating that giving the names was not a big issue. Besides, the false story protected the men’s identities. The researcher exposed the men to possible legal prosecution, potential physical harm, and potential psychological harm. The researcher kept all records in a safe- deposit box in another state so the authorities could not gain access to the information.

21 There are other ethical concerns about which you could argue. Although most IRBs would probably not approve this research, you could make logical arguments that the research was not unethical. There were no IRBs when Humphreys conducted the research, so he cannot be faulted for failing to gain approval. Controversy: Public Versus Private Sex

22 What were the results? When Humphreys analyzed his data, he found that the men known to have engaged in this behavior were no different in a lot of ways than men not known to have done this—age, marital status, education, occupation, etc. Controversy: Public Versus Private Sex


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