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Everything is Observation Observation permits us to see what people normally do.

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1 Everything is Observation Observation permits us to see what people normally do

2 Definition of terms In a narrow sense- it refers to a technique, which could even be used with an experiment as a measure of dependant variable In non-experimental designs: refers to researchers taking data from naturally occurring situations. If the basic design is ‘observational’ : emphasis is on observation as the main procedure for data gathering.

3 Observation as a Technique Can be used in an experiment as a technique to count how many times people do certain things (e.g. Bandura’s Bobo doll study) Milgram (1963): observation of emotional reactions analyzed from film recordings Those 2 examples used observation in a laboratory setting. Observation can also be used in field experiments. E.g. Uetake, Hurnik & Johnsom, (1997) played music to cows- on music days more cows near milking area.

4 Observation as a Research Design We may observe relatively free-flowing and unconstrained behavior of an observed individual or group, with or without their knowledge, as they perform (usually) in an everyday context (there is no IV)

5 Varieties of Observational Study The extent to which the setting in which people are observed is a natural environment or is structured The extent to which the observational data is structured The extent to which the observer is engaged with those being observed

6 Naturalistic Observation People observed are in their everyday (natural) setting For example: Rate aggression on school playground Advantages: we can observe naturally occurring unrestrained behavior that is not distorted by what the researcher in some way requires. Behavior unaffected by anxiety or a need to impress Includes the full context of the behavior Useful when the experiment is unethical or when participants could not cooperate Disadvantages: less control over extraneous variables; observer training costly & lengthy, can’t use equipment which difficult to transport, observer may have trouble remaining hidden; if coding system too rigid- not able to record interesting and relevant behavior

7 Controlled observation in a laboratory Some variables (e.g. the toys available) are controlled by the researcher reducing the occurrence of natural behaviour

8 Unstructured Observation Researcher records all relevant behaviour but has no system Behviour studied is largely unpredictable Disadvantage: might only record the most eye-catching behaviours, which might actually not be most relevant or important

9 Systematic Observation/Structured A form of structured observation with an aim to record and categorize behaviour as accurately and with as much agreement as possible. Often qualitative, data recorded using a Coding system (behaviour checklist) Record frequency of events, time or use scale, rate behaviour according to a structured scale 1-10 ChildHits or shoves other with force- unprovoked Hits or shoves other with force- following peer Hits or shoves other with force- retaliation Shouts at other –unpro- voked Shouts at other- following peer Shouts at other- retali- ation A B

10 Main features of structured (systematic) observations Defining behaviour categories prior to commencing the main observational sessions Sampling of behaviour in a consistent manner using one of the sampling devices described below Training of the observers in the use of a coding system and to a good level of agreement prior to main data- gathering sessions (inter-observer reliability) Disadvantages: reduction of behaviour to artificially isolated units- provides meaningless data, richness of data is lost, social meaning not taken into account.

11 Qualitative non- participant observation Can be done by producing a running commentary about the observed behaviour by speaking into a tape recorder Generates a lot of raw data in qualitative form, but rigid structure imposed during analysis by independent raters trained in a specific coding scheme that reduces qualitative data into frequencies of occurrence. Qualitative data may also be left as it is and presented alongside quantitative data for illustration purposes or provide new insights Sorts of observations made may change during the course of the observation

12 Role play and Simulation In some cases participants observe role-plays (non-active role), but by and large, it is participants role-playing that is observed (active role). Active role- participant’s are asked to actively play a role within a stimulated social setting (e.g. being a prisoner or guard at Zimbardo’s (1972) prison study. Non-active role- participants are asked to watch a role play and then to report feelings, reactions or suggestions. In this case stimulation simply serves as material for a question-asking method.

13 Diary Method Diaries are kept during most participant observation studies (Darwin, Piaget) Where observation is covert, these will be constructed at the end of each day, from memory or from discreetly jotted notes recorded where opportunities have arisen. Participants could also be asked to keep their own diaries, which will be later subjected to content analysis by the observer.

14 Data gathering devices Film or video recording Still camera Audio tape (spoken observation) Hand-written notes, ratings or coding on the spot Visual recordings can be anaysed later and in researchers own time, can view repeatedly to increase understanding Any methods can be used discreetly (note! Ethical issues!) e.g. one-way mirrors

15 Data Sampling When observation has lasted for hours, would be too time consuming to code it all, hence researchers take a sample from the data. Time sampling: observing for a specific time (e.g. 15 min) so that a picture of the frequency of behavior is built up Point sampling: observing what participants are doing at particular point in time (e.g. after 30 min interval) observe one long enough to record a category of behavior before moving to the next person Event sampling: concentrating on specific types of event each time they occur (fight, smile etc.)

16 Reliability of Observational data Use clearly defined and operationalized coding systems (to counteract any observer bias- inconsistency with the recordings of other observers) Train observers with practice observations Check for inter-observer reliability (inter-rater reliability) by means of correlating one observers data with those of another Participant identification ABCD Observer 13427 Observer 23338

17 Controlled Observation Observations can be controlled through structure or through environment (high in laboratory, although highly artificial, possibly inhibiting atmosphere)

18 Naturalistic Observation high on reality, behavior genuine, however if participants aware- Hawthorne effects depending on participant’s reactivity (Effects can be quite subtle: Zegoib, Arnold &Forehand, 1975- mothers under observation interacted more with children, became more warm and patient. Control reactivity by repeat observation, to enhance internal validity. Hidden cameras- ethical problems To reduce reactivity, observer could become predictable and familiar part of environment (Charlesworth & Hartup, 1967)

19 Behavior Checklist/Coding Can be adopted from other studies or made up new It should be: 1. Objective 2. Cover all possible component behaviors, avoid waste bucket 3. Have no overlapping categories

20 Disclosed and undisclosed observation Undisclosed observation: e.g. one-way mirrors Demand characteristics- if aware that they are being observed, participants might try to obtain clues from observers Hawthorne effects- participants behavior might be affected simply by their knowing that they are the subject of research study To avoid those effects researchers might befriend the participants (nursery study) by becoming “part of the furniture” Ethical issues with undisclosed observations

21 Participant Observation In or Out? Degrees of participation: Full participant(undisclosed), participant as observer, observer as participant, full observer (non-participant obs.) In participant observation the observer joins or works with the group of people observed (Rosenhan, 1973) – observers became pseudopatients in a psychiatric ward (detained between 7-52 days, given 2100 pills) Ethics: must recognize that observer’s presence might affect participant behaviour, things might be said, which would normally never be said to researcher- need to obtain consent for disclosure Problems: objectivity might be impaired, problems taking notes (rely on memory), researcher the only witness

22 Direct vs. Indirect Observation Direct: being there and then to observe- first hand Indirect: content analysis of indirect data (data which has already been collected)

23 StrengthsWeaknesses Obs. In generalReduces discrepancy between what people say and do Observer bias Allows to form hypotheses for future investigations Low inter-rater reliability Captures spontaneous and unexpected behaviour Ethics if undisclosed, changes in behaviour if disclosed, can not inform us about what people feel and think Participant obsInsider infoLack of objectiveness Structured obsImp. Info picked upSome behaviours might not get recorded Time samplingReduces number of obsObs not representative Event samplingUseful when behavior only happens occasionally, might be missed if time sampling used Observer may miss some obs if too many things happen at once

24 AdvantagesDisadvantages Controlled Behaviour studied can be more flexible and continuous If used in an experiment, the cause-effect relationship less ambiguous than in non-experimental settings Less intrusion from extraneous variables If conducted in an artificial environment might seriously distort natural behaviour patterns Participants can guess research aim and can act in a socially desirable manner Reactive context

25 Naturalistic Reactivity not a problem where participants unaware of being in research context and, if so, genuine behaviour produced. Even if target is aware of being observed, natural setting ensures that behaviour observed is usually more realistic than it could be in the laboratory. An important and useful approach where: Intervention is unethical (children, animals) Cooperation from targets is unlikely The full social context for behaviour is required Greater ambiguity from extraneous variables and unpredictable behaviour gives greater potential for observer bias than in more structured/laboratory studies Extraneous variables poorly controlled and pose much greater threats to validity than in the laboratory Difficulty of remaining undiscovered by targets Replication may be more difficult Cannot transport and use sophisiticated equipment used to make quality recordings in the laboratory

26 Participant Advantages: Behaviour is again usually genuine and natural, unless participants are aware of researcher’s presence and aims Meanings of participant’s behaviour more readily available Trust and informality give info and insights unavailable in other methods Disadvantages: Researcher may have to rely on memory for data collection Replication often more difficult than in structured approaches, but this may be irrelevant Problem of ‘blowing cover’ Researcher’s interactions with participants may alter normal relations. Public checks on data difficult.

27 Suggestions for Observations Analysing group interactions, with the aim to label them as “task” or “socio-emotional” specialists  Verbal behaviour Positive or negative contribution Asking for or giving suggestions Analysis of non-verbal cues, using content-analysis  Style of speaking, voice tone, loudness, interruptions, speed, postural moulding, hesitations, address codes, paralinguistics, silences, clothing, hair, make-up, facial expressions, use of eyes, body contact, touch, body movement, gesture & proximity, smells. (e.g. Queen’s speech, Obama’s inauguration)

28 More suggestions… Unobtrusive measures (observing evidence left behind by people)  Carpet wear, nose prints (glass protecting screens), rubbish bins Greeting rituals on phones, methods used to end call (4 part ritual: summary, justification, some pos. comment, indication that relationship will continue) Procedures used by pedestrians in the public use of pavements Gender differences in pupil-teacher interaction

29 Where do I start? Why is the research carried out? What is the research question? Hypothesis? Who is the research to be carried out on? Who is it about? Where will the study take place? Over what period of time? How much of research ought to be revealed to those observed?

30 What is it to be recorded? Definition Time sampling? Environmental and other constraints? What recording methods and equipment is going to be used? (even when using video recorder, still need to just down notes- reflections, personal feelings, hunches, guesses, speculations, anything else observed...)

31 Report writing Describe the context (date, time, weather, lighting) Describe participants (age, gender, ethnicity, clothing, physical description) Describe who the observer is (any links to the observed?) Describe the actions of the participants (incl. verbal and non-verbal) Interpret the situation (attempting to give an indication of its meaning to the participant and to the observer) Consider alternative interpretations of the situation Explore your feelings in being an observer

32 Advantages of observation as a method Can give rich information and unexpected results- suggesting new avenues for future research A picture is provided of real life naturalistic setting Researcher intrudes very little into situation This method tells us not only what is going on but also who is involved, when and where things happen It can illuminate processes and examine causality, suggesting why things happen as they do in certain settings Gives access to non-verbal cues and phenomena not amenable to experimentation Situations not replicatable in laboratory can be examined (weddings, behaviors in bars Chronology of events can be taken into account, continuities over time can be looked at

33 Disadvantages of Observational Method External validity  Results can be very subjective  Reactivity of the observer on the situation (difficult to stand back from the process that one is part of) The “why” may be poorly formulated The “who” may be poor sample Cultural differences taken into account? Observation too short or too long? Internal validity (problems with what is recorded) Time consuming and labor-intensive

34 Last but not least… Langer (1978): “ for a lot of time in social interaction we do not behave in a thoughtful fashion, but rather act ‘mindlessly’.” Hence, we could end up with crystallized ‘reality’ rather than a reflection of the messy nature of things as they really are… Lofland (1971 : 93): “observation is the most penetrating of strategies, the most close and telling mode of gathering information”.


36 Content Analysis Another way of observing people, not directly, but through the messages they produce: either using communications already there (political speeches, TV advertisements, reported contents of dreams, magazine contents etc.) Or the ones, which researcher will ask participants to produce (e.g. essays, answers to interview questions (transcribed), diaries, verbal protocols

37 What could you analyse? You could analyse: plays, folklore, legends, nursery rhymes, children’s books, popular music- demonstrate differences between cultures and subcultures

38 What could you analyse? Books and TV content- race or sex bias? Newspapers-political leanings Girls magazines- advocating dieting, spending on clothes etc. Facebook profile pictures- groups, activities, portrait

39 How to do a content analysis? Decide what material to sample. Decide upon Coding units: UnitExample WordAnalyse diet related words in different magazines ThemeAnalyse for occasions in nursery rhymes where disobedience leads to punishment or threat of it ItemLook for whole stories, e.g. article on Obama Time & space Count space of time devoted to particular issue in media Charac ter Analyse types of character occurring in TV ads

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