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Structured observation of behaviour

Controlled observation

• Researcher decides
◦ Where test will take place
‣ Most likely in a psychology laboratory
◦ The time of test
◦ Which participants
◦ In what circumstances

• Uses a standardised procedure

• Usually code behaviour according to a previously decided scale
◦ Instead of giving a detailed description of behaviour
◦ May involve numbers or letters to describe a characteristic
◦ Use of scale to measure behaviour intensity
◦ Data easily counted and turned into statistic

• Example: Mary Ainsworth attachment experiment, sleep experiments

• Strength
◦ Easily replicated, easy to test for reliability
◦ Data easier to analyse and calculate
◦ Quick to conduct

• Limitation

◦ Lack validity
◦ Demand characteristics
◦ Participants know they are being watched

Self-report methods (questionnaire)

• Collects information about the participant without interference from the experimenter/psychologist

• Gives information about feelings, thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, opinions and intentions

• It is possible to ask hypothetical questions, rather than setting up a situation and then observing the behaviour (information directly from the source)

• Questions could be either dichotomous (yes/no), likert questions (rate level of agreeableness to an assertion), open questions, leading questions etc.

Strengths: Possible to collect large amounts of data (also geographically), cheap, quick, effective, researcher doesn’t need to be present, beneficial in longitudinal studies, possible to ask both open or closed questions (receiving respectively qualitative and quantitative data), allows for anonymity in relation to sensitive topics, can be standardized and thereby easy to replicate and analyze statistically.

Weaknesses: Only useful if the participant is willing to be honest.

There is a problem with validity, as the participant can give “correct” answers that they think the researcher is looking for, or what is socially desirable (social desirability bias), or the opposite.

The participant can exaggerate, minimize, misremember, understand the questions differently etc.

Example: big five personality test,


Methods of-self report (interview)


• Individual respond by themselves, no interruption

• Asking about feelings, attitudes, beliefs

• Observational (behavioural spoken questionnaire)

◦ Can be structured and unstructured
◦ Not planned (some might be)

• Gain personal experience of client

• Examine a large number of variables

• Follow-up questions or further questioning within topic

• Open and closed questions

◦ Open; makes subject talk
◦ Closed; Specific questions

• Avoid participant to answer due to social expectations
• Approach; in all approaches (however, not much in quantitative research)
• Limitations
◦ The subjects may misunderstand/misinterpret/not answer truthfully to the questions
‣ Questions may be unclear
‣ They want to present themselves in a socially desirable way (bias)

• Structure
◦ Personal information
◦ Biological information (sleep, habits, etc.)

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