Observational Studies

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  • Created by: Beth_Gee
  • Created on: 04-05-14 20:57

Observational Studies

Not manipulating an IV

• Recorded in written form

• Recorded – good idea – watch every P

• Live – Can only watch one P

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Advantages and Disadvantages


• High ecological validity provided it is un-disclosed

• Observe P behaviour withour manipulating the IV – unethical


• Observer bias – can manipulate results, behaviour = subjective

• 1 P not representative of other P/population

• Ethics – Ps not given informed consent

• Inter-observer reliability – different observers score different things but = same behaviour

• Intra-observer reliability – observer may be inconsistent with scoring

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Designing an Observation

• Where?

o Pick location

• Which P 

• Which behaviour

• P sample – every P – video camera 

o Disclosed

o More P

o More detail

o Accurate

o Low ecological validity

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Designing an Observation Continued...

• System for picking Ps (random)

o Systematic technique

• Behaviour sampling technique

o Time interval technique – record continuously all behavs of a P e.g 1 min

• Time point sampling 

o Beh occurring at fixed time points e.g 0,10,20,30 secs

• Event sampling

o Decide to record certain events e.g communication

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Reliability of an Observation

• Same results if repeated = reliable

• Observer reliability = problem

• Inter-rater reliability: a measure of how consistent 2 or more are in scoring beh

o Improve by training 

 Use of video 

 Check scores same on 2 separate occurrences

• Intra-rater reliability: measure of how consistent one observer is with self

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Natural Observation

• Researcher observes behaviour in p’s wn environment


• Hih levels of ecological validity

• Ps may be unaware that they are being studied – behaviour more natural 


• No control of EV’S 

• If P unaware that they are being observed, then this may raise thical issues – lack of informed consent

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Controlled Observation

• Observes in a controlled environment


• High levels of control over EVs


• Ps may be effected by the fact they know they ae being observed.

• Behaviour may not be natural – lowers ecological validity

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Participant Observation

• Observer takes part, and is studying within a group


• Very high ecological validity 

• Rich qualitative data

• Easier to understand what the observees behaviour means

• Relationship based on trust can be established between observer and observe


• Rely on memory – unreliable

• Observer become emotionally involved – subjective rather that objective

• Presence of observer may change the group dynamic

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Non-Participant Observation

Does not take part in group


• Observees may nt realise that they are beng studied – ecological validity

• Observer may be more objective – less likely to be emotionally involved

• Record observationsas they occur – more reliable in terms of memory


• Actual meaning of behaviour may not be clear from the distance

• Relationship is not formed between observer and observee – less trust

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Disclosed Observation

h·         Ps aware they are being studied


·         Reduction of ethics – informed consent

·         Increases trust


·         Increase in reactivity as observee may change behaviour – know they are being studied – increase in demand characteristics

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Un-Disclosed Observation

Ps not aware they are being observed


• Reduction of reactivity as P does not know they are being studied – less demand characteristics


• Ethics – no informed consent

• Distrust – due to not knowing they are being studied

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