PSYB01H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Confirmation Bias, Observer-Expectancy Effect, Naturalistic Observation

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10 Nov 2012
Lecture 4
Observational Research, Case Studies, Archival Analysis
Slide 2: Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
Numeric (or can be converted into numeric)
Fewer features/variables, larger groups
For example, looking at 2-3 variables for at least 30 people or more
This is the type of research is common in psychology
Data is text, video, audio, photographs, performances, etc.
Sometimes it can be turned into something quantitative but sometimes it isn’t
A lot of data just stays in text form
Smaller number of p’s or groups who are looked at more intensely ex: case studies
Slide 3: Observational Research
Systematically watching & recording behaviour much different from regular `people
watching`- you go in with a plan and a purpose & a systematic way to record what you
To be scientific, observation must
Serve a formulated research purpose a reason why you`re doing a
observational project foundational research looking into the same field
Be planned deliberately know exactly what you’re observing, how you’ll
record it, how much time you’ll spend, definition of behavior, the specific
people you’ll record
Be systematically recorded know what it is you’re watching for = makes it as
objective as possible
Be subject to checks and controls on validity and reliability.
With respect to advantages and disadvantages there is usually a trade-off
between internal and external validity
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Lecture 4
Certain types of observational research usually has the highest amount of
external validity & sometimes internal validity on the low side - but there is
Naturally occurring behaviour you’re seeing the stuff that people would be normally doing
anyways; compared to in a laboratory experiment people do things they don’t usually do such as
matching up shapes
Readily available you don’t have to set up for participants to come into the lab, a lot of time
don’t have to worry about having special access or setting up special situations = makes
observational research easier to do and less expensive
Can yield ideas for future research there may be things you observe that strike you as
interesting, unexpected = ideas for future studies
Ex: in car shows why do observers put their hands in their pockets or behind their backs? Is it to
restrain themselves from touching the cars especially since owners are there too? can study
this in the feature what settings do people do this in? What other related behaviour is there?
What factors lead to this behaviour?
Potential for observer bias / confirmation bias
Observer bias anything to do with the person actually doing the research; anything that causes
them to pay more attention to one things vs. another thing, or see & interpret something in a
particular way
Ex: if you’ve recently been involved in a lot of negative verbal exchanges or seen a lot
people engaging in negative verbal exchanges - when you see two people talking loudly
might actually misinterpret it as a negative verbal exchange when it’s not
Confirmation bias
Occurs when you have an idea about something ( such as the relationship between two
things) and since you already have an idea you only notice things consistent to your idea
Ex: having a political opinion pay more attention to things consistent with the opinion
and seek out information consistent information and avoid inconsistent information
If you’re engaging in an observational study and there’s a particular thing you want or
expect to see then you’re probably going to see more of it especially in an
environment with lots of activity and distractions
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Lecture 4
Slide 5: Observing Behaviour from the outside: Naturalistic observation
Observation of behavior in where it occurs naturally. person doesn’t know they’re
being observed
Should be unobtrusive - ex: watching people in the subway, ex: how people choose
which bikes to use in spin class ( those who are more advanced usually sit in the front
new comers sit in the back) people won’t even know you’re observing them
Good for studying behaviors that might be altered if participants knew they were being
observed (reactivity effect).
Ex: handing washing behavior & length of time hands are washed, hand-blowers
vs. hand towels, signs, etc.
High external validity because looking at naturally occurring behavior
Time-consuming and inconvenient
Ex: time-consuming if the behavior doesn’t happen so often such as mothers
with newborn infants in hospital settings can only see one mother at a time,
need to go to a newborn section, ask for permission, etc.
Slide 6: Observing behaviour from the inside: Participant observation
Researchers enter context, and becomes a part of it; maintain field notes
Other people don’t know usually that the researcher is conducting research but
sometimes they do
Ex: social group, organization such as a work place, voluntary committee, city council
Rich narratives about the experiences of the observed and the observer
Introduces us to the world of others hearing things from an inside perspective
High external validity similar to naturalistic observation
Researcher able to experience same condition that participants experience
therefore can get a real sense for the environment, problems, what people
experience regularly in that environment
Can collect information on factors that may not be overtly observable
Ex: naturalistic observation in a restaurant can only see things happening in the
sit down area- can’t actually hear conversations in the kitchen, how they
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