P8 - ClPy - Q11 - What are the different types of observation in the…
P8 - ClPy - Q11 - What are the different types of observation in the clinical setting?
Observation (watching what people do) would seem to be an obvious method of carrying out research in psychology.
different types of observational methods
Controlled observations (usually a structured observation) are likely to be carried out in a psychology laboratory.
The researcher decides where the observation will take place, at what time, with which participants, in what circumstances and uses a standardised procedure. Participants are randomly allocated to each independent variable group.
For example, Mary Ainsworth used a behavior schedule to study how infants responded to brief periods of separation from their mothers. During the Strange Situation procedure infant's interaction behaviors directed toward the mother were measured, e.g.
Proximity and contacting seeking
Avoidance of proximity and contact
Resistance to contact and comforting
A lot of research has been carried out in sleep laboratories as well. Here electrodes are attached to the scalp of participants and what is observed are the changes in electrical activity in the brain during sleep (the machine is called an electroencephalogram – an EEG).
Controlled observations can be easily replicated by other researchers by using the same observation schedule. This means it is easy to test for reliability.
The data obtained from structured observations is easier and quicker to analyze as it is quantitative (i.e. numerical) - making this a less time consuming method compared to naturalistic observations.
Controlled observations are fairly quick to conduct which means that many observations can take place within a short amount of time. This means a large sample can be obtained resulting in the findings being representative and having the ability to be generalized to a large population..
Controlled observations can lack validity due to the Hawthorne effect/demand characteristics. When participants know they are being watched they may act differently.
This technique involves observing involves studying the spontaneous behavior of participants in natural surroundings. The researcher simply records what they see in whatever way they can.
Compared with controlled observations it is like the difference between studying wild animals in a zoo and studying them in their natural habitat.
With regard to human subjects Margaret Mead used this method to research the way of life of different tribes living on islands in the South Pacific.
Kathy Sylva used it to study children at play by observing their behavior in a playgroup in Oxfordshire.
1 By being able to observe the flow of behavior in its own setting studies have greater ecological validity.
Like case studies naturalistic observation is often used to generate new ideas. Because it gives the researcher the opportunity to study the total situation it often suggests avenues of enquiry not thought of before.
These observations are often conducted on a micro (small) scale and may lack a representative sample (biased in relation to age, gender, social class or ethnicity). This may result in the findings lacking the ability to be generalized to wider society.
Natural observations are less reliable as other variables cannot be controlled. This makes it difficult for another researcher to repeat the study in exactly the same way.
A further disadvantage is that the researcher needs to be trained to be able to recognise aspects of a situation that are psychologically significant and worth further attention.
With observations we do not have manipulations of variables (or control over extraneous variables) which means cause and effect relationships cannot be established.
Participant observation is a variant of the above (natural observations) but here the researcher joins in and becomes part of the group they are studying to get a deeper insight into their lives.
Participant observations can be either cover or overt. Covert is where the study is carried out 'under cover'. The researcher's real identity and purpose are kept concealed from the group being studied.
overt is where the researcher reveals his or her true identity and purpose to the group and asks permission to observe.
It can be difficult to get time / privacy for recording. For example, with covert observations researchers can’t take notes openly as this would blow their cover. This means they have to wait until they are alone and rely on their memory. This is a problem as they may forget details and are unlikely to remember direct quotations.
If the researcher becomes too involved they may lose objectivity and become bias. There is always the danger that we will “see” what we expect (or want) to see. This is a problem as they could selectively report information instead of noting everything they observe. Thus reducing the validity of their data.
Prepared by: Srinivas Adapa;