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Observation Essay Examples

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Observation: The act of closely monitoring something or someone in our surroundings.

Observation is a method of collecting data for research in psychology. It involves watching participants carefully and collecting data of the desired behavior which is being studied.

There are three types of observational methods:

  1. Controlled observations
  2. Naturalistic observations
  3. Participant observations

1-Controlled Observations:

Controlled observations are carried out in labs under controlled settings. The researcher determines the place of the experiment, time, and a number of participants and uses a standardized procedure to carry it out. Participants are randomly distributed among various groups.

As it is difficult for researchers to write detailed descriptions of all observed behaviors, an easier method is used. The researcher according to a behavior schedule uses the method of coding. The researcher classifies certain behaviors into different categories. Coding involves the description of behaviors by numbers or letters or by a scale that measures the intensity of behaviors. Usually, these researches are overt as participant knows that he is being observed. The researcher usually maintains a distance i.e. he uses methods like a two-way mirror to avoid direct contact.

Strengths and limitations:

Controlled observations have many strengths like it is easy to test for reliability as it can be done by a different researcher using the same schedule. It is less time-consuming compared to other observational methods as the data collected is quantitative which is easier to analyze. Controlled observations have a very significant limitation which is that it lacks validity as participants can become conscious in their responses and may act differently when they know they are being observed.

Examples:

Dement and Kleitman conducted a study on how dreaming links with sleep and more precisely the relation between different eye movements and activities taking place in dream. They found that dreaming occurs at a stage of sleeping known as REM i.e. rapid eye movement and its duration corresponds to the length of REM period. There were many other conclusions as well. (1957)

2-Naturalistic Observations:

This type of observation is carried out in natural environment of the participants. Naturalistic observations are usually carried out where lab studies are less useful e.g. if a psychologist wants to study the behavior of animals in the wild or if the behavior in the classroom is being studied.

In these types of research, lab would influence the behavior of participants.

Strengths and limitations:

Naturalistic observation differs from structured observation as it involves studying behaviors without any interference by the researcher. It has higher ecological validity as spontaneous behaviors in a natural setting are observed. This type of observation gives observers a direct interaction with behaviors. It allows researchers to study things that can be unethical to manipulate in labs like studying the effects of imprisonment.

Naturalistic observations have some disadvantages like participants knowing that they are being watched may behave differently. Another disadvantage is that it would be difficult for the researcher to control extraneous variables which may affect the behavior being studied. Participants sometimes intentionally respond differently to provide the researcher with what they think he wants. Different observers may credit the same behavior to different stimuli, so it has less reliability.

Examples:

In 2015 research was held by Butcher and Nasr in which they observed parent-child interactions in their natural environment. They observed them during a course of three airway clearance treatments in 15 children with cystic fibrosis being held in their own homes. They then compared it to other children who did not have their parents with them 24 hours. So, it was concluded that the presence of parents, attention, keeping away from negative comments, and the child’s cooperation and will during airway clearance were all helpful for the child’s successful treatment regimen.

3-Participant Observations:

Participant observation is similar to the naturalistic observation in many ways but in this kind of research, the observer also participates in the group to get a deeper understanding of the other participants’ lives. Participant observations can be either overt (participants know that they are being observed) or covert (in which participants are unaware of the fact that they are being observed by a member of the group).

Strengths and limitations:

Participant observations has a few limitations which include the difficulty of recording data as the researcher himself is also participating. If covert research is being held researcher would have to rely on his own memory to record data as he cannot note down the details in front of other members. This delay can cause the researcher to forget some of the details.

This type of observation reduces the validity of the experiment as a researcher may become biased and he may pay more attention to what he expects to see rather than what is actually happening.

Its strength is that it provides greater knowledge and in-depth details of participants’ behaviors as a researcher is there at the site of the experiment.

Examples:

1- Amy Wilkins, a sociologist used participant observation when she conducted a study on a religious organization in a university focusing on the satisfaction and happiness of its members. She spent 12 months there between them participating and attending their meetings and events. She interviewed many of the members of that group. Conclusively, she observed that instead of actual happiness the group was enforced to be happy by continuously discouraging any kind of negative emotions like sadness and by continuously talking about happiness. Hence, she concluded that they were only using happiness as a tool to get themselves noticed among other groups. (Wilkins,2008)

References

  1. Banyard, P. & Flanagan, C. (2013). ocr psychology: as core studies and psychological investigations. psychology press .(3rd ed)
  2. http://excellingpsychology.blogspot.com/2018/03/dement-and-kleitman-research.html
  3. https://opentext.wsu.edu/carriecuttler/chapter/observational-research/
  4. https://opentextbc.ca/researchmethods/chapter/qualitative-research/
  5. Weiten, W. (2012). Themes and variations (8th ed.). USA: Cengage Learning, Inc

Observation: The act of closely monitoring something or someone in our surroundings.

Observation in psychology:

Observation is a method of collecting data for research in psychology. It involves watching participants carefully and collecting data of the desired behavior which is being studied.

There are three types of observational methods:

  1. Controlled observations
  2. Naturalistic observations
  3. Participant observations

1-Controlled Observations:

Controlled observations are carried out in labs under controlled settings. The researcher determines the place of the experiment, time, and a number of participants and uses a standardized procedure to carry it out. Participants are randomly distributed among various groups.

As it is difficult for researchers to write detailed descriptions of all observed behaviors, an easier method is used. The researcher according to a behavior schedule uses the method of coding. The researcher classifies certain behaviors into different categories. Coding involves the description of behaviors by numbers or letters or by a scale that measures the intensity of behaviors. Usually, these researches are overt as participant knows that he is being observed. The researcher usually maintains a distance i.e. he uses methods like a two-way mirror to avoid direct contact.

Strengths and limitations:

Controlled observations have many strengths like it is easy to test for reliability as it can be done by a different researcher using the same schedule. It is less time-consuming compared to other observational methods as the data collected is quantitative which is easier to analyze. Controlled observations have a very significant limitation which is that it lacks validity as participants can become conscious in their responses and may act differently when they know they are being observed.

Examples:

Dement and Kleitman conducted a study on how dreaming links with sleep and more precisely the relation between different eye movements and activities taking place in dream. They found that dreaming occurs at a stage of sleeping known as REM i.e. rapid eye movement and its duration corresponds to the length of REM period. There were many other conclusions as well. (1957)

2-Naturalistic Observations:

This type of observation is carried out in natural environment of the participants. Naturalistic observations are usually carried out where lab studies are less useful e.g. if a psychologist wants to study the behavior of animals in the wild or if the behavior in the classroom is being studied.

In these types of research, lab would influence the behavior of participants.

Strengths and limitations:

Naturalistic observation differs from structured observation as it involves studying behaviors without any interference by the researcher. It has higher ecological validity as spontaneous behaviors in a natural setting are observed. This type of observation gives observers a direct interaction with behaviors. It allows researchers to study things that can be unethical to manipulate in labs like studying the effects of imprisonment.

Naturalistic observations have some disadvantages like participants knowing that they are being watched may behave differently. Another disadvantage is that it would be difficult for the researcher to control extraneous variables which may affect the behavior being studied. Participants sometimes intentionally respond differently to provide the researcher with what they think he wants. Different observers may credit the same behavior to different stimuli, so it has less reliability.

Examples:

In 2015 research was held by Butcher and Nasr in which they observed parent-child interactions in their natural environment. They observed them during a course of three airway clearance treatments in 15 children with cystic fibrosis being held in their own homes. They then compared it to other children who did not have their parents with them 24 hours. So, it was concluded that the presence of parents, attention, keeping away from negative comments, and the child’s cooperation and will during airway clearance were all helpful for the child’s successful treatment regimen.

3-Participant Observations:

Participant observation is similar to the naturalistic observation in many ways but in this kind of research, the observer also participates in the group to get a deeper understanding of the other participants’ lives. Participant observations can be either overt (participants know that they are being observed) or covert (in which participants are unaware of the fact that they are being observed by a member of the group).

Strengths and limitations:

Participant observations has a few limitations which include the difficulty of recording data as the researcher himself is also participating. If covert research is being held researcher would have to rely on his own memory to record data as he cannot note down the details in front of other members. This delay can cause the researcher to forget some of the details.

This type of observation reduces the validity of the experiment as a researcher may become biased and he may pay more attention to what he expects to see rather than what is actually happening.

Its strength is that it provides greater knowledge and in-depth details of participants’ behaviors as a researcher is there at the site of the experiment.

Examples:

1- Amy Wilkins, a sociologist used participant observation when she conducted a study on a religious organization in a university focusing on the satisfaction and happiness of its members. She spent 12 months there between them participating and attending their meetings and events. She interviewed many of the members of that group. Conclusively, she observed that instead of actual happiness the group was enforced to be happy by continuously discouraging any kind of negative emotions like sadness and by continuously talking about happiness. Hence, she concluded that they were only using happiness as a tool to get themselves noticed among other groups. (Wilkins,2008)

References

  1. Banyard, P. & Flanagan, C. (2013). ocr psychology: as core studies and psychological investigations. psychology press .(3rd ed)
  2. http://excellingpsychology.blogspot.com/2018/03/dement-and-kleitman-research.html
  3. https://opentext.wsu.edu/carriecuttler/chapter/observational-research/
  4. https://opentextbc.ca/researchmethods/chapter/qualitative-research/
  5. Weiten, W. (2012). Themes and variations (8th ed.). USA: Cengage Learning, Inc
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