Research Writing

Naturalistic observation definition/uses/Difference from analog observation

There are many ways to collect data  on an individual, but none are as simple and efficient as naturalistic observation . We are going to discover the advantages that using this method provides us, what is the way to do it correctly and the differences with other forms of observation, to get to know this  methodology in depth and be able to use it without difficulties. Naturalistic observation definition

What is naturalistic observation?

Naturalistic observation is a method used in research  and whose foundation is to observe a subject or subjects, whether they are people or animals, doing it directly in the place where they live, without disturbing the researcher in the least , in order to avoid any type of interference that supposes a behavior different from the one that would have if there were no observer there.

Therefore, discretion is essential in naturalistic observation. We must avoid contaminating the scene and interactions, even with our mere presence. Therefore, the perfect example of naturalistic observation is one in which the individual does not realize that he is being observed, so we do not give rise to the possibility that his behavior is altered by the irruption of a stranger in his usual environment.

The advantages of using this  methodology are obvious: we obtain real results, without any type of alteration. The behavior of the individual that we record is what, in fact, must occur in their habitat, under those conditions. On the contrary, if this observation were carried out in an artificial environment, such as a laboratory, we would have to control a multitude of variables and we would never be sure that the observation corresponds to a natural behavior. Naturalistic observation definition

Furthermore, naturalistic observation is the only way, or at least the only way that ethics allows us, to be able to analyze certain events that, by their nature, would not make sense to artificially construct, such as those related to a crime. Along these lines, the recordings of the video surveillance cameras and the testimonies of eyewitnesses provide information to carry out an observation, in this case a posteriori, with which to obtain conclusions and even anticipate a series of behaviors.

Different uses

Talking about the uses of naturalistic observation is, in fact, something almost unfathomable. And it is that this technique is so useful and so simple to carry out that many disciplines , of different nature.

Of course, one of those that most drink from it is none other than Psychology, and that is that the science of human behavior needs to be nourished by the most neutral and reliable information possible, so naturalistic observation is an ideal method to achieve this. purpose.

Along these lines, ethology, the science of animal behavior, may be an even clearer example . Either to study the behaviors of certain species, to know them more deeply, or because of their evolutionary proximity to humans, such as different species of primates (chimpanzees, bonobos or orangutans), since the registered behaviors would help us to know ourselves better to ourselves, naturalistic observation is an invaluable tool.

The clearest example would be the work carried out by the primatologist, Jane Goodall, throughout a lifetime. Thanks to his studies in the field, using almost exclusively the method of naturalistic observation. Goodall has observed a society of chimpanzees for no less than 55 years, collecting an infinity of data on their  social structure, interactions, emotions and other types of behavior, that we would never have been able to know otherwise. Naturalistic observation definition

Naturalistic observation is also very valuable for other sciences, such as criminology, and it is that we already anticipated in the previous point that there is an ethical code  that prevents researchers from recreating antisocial behaviors in an artificial environment, so that they can observe them when they occur In a real scenario, in order to collect all the data  that will help us to generate new methods that can avoid them in the future, it is tremendously useful.

Differences from analog observation

In opposition to naturalistic observation, we would find analogical observation , a  methodology based on recreating a real situation within a laboratory environment, so that, instead of the natural habitat of the subject, we would find ourselves in an artificial environment. We have already intuited throughout the article that these observations in simulated scenarios entail certain disadvantages, since it is possible that the individual will never behave as he would in his natural environment.

But the truth is that it is not always possible to study the behaviors that interest us in the environment in which they naturally occur , so on many occasions researchers are forced to use analogous observation, since the alternative would be not manage to collect any information. In this case, obviously, the logical decision is to use this methodology, being aware of its limitations and taking them into account when analyzing the results.

In any case, if there is no choice but to use analogous observations, the important thing is to do it under the most neutral conditions as far as possible, trying to leave as few variables as possible uncontrolled , in order to achieve results that are as similar as possible to those that we would find if we had conducted our research in the real habitat of individuals. Naturalistic observation definition

Observer bias

Although we have already seen that naturalistic observation is much more valuable than analogous, the truth is that, in any type of observation, we can find ourselves with a difficulty that, as researchers, we must know to mitigate it as much as possible. It is none other than the bias of the observer’s expectation, which can contaminate the data  that we record during the session .

This bias refers to the influence that the previous expectations that the researcher may have regarding the results of the study, in a way that can lead to erroneous interpretations of the collected data , guiding in some way the conclusions towards the preconceived idea that was had, which would profoundly weaken the internal validity of the entire investigation.

The positive part is that it is a phenomenon that is well known and studied, and it has a relatively simple solution, which consists of the use of a double blind , a type of experimental design in which neither the subjects who are part of the study nor the subjects themselves Researchers who carry it out know whether each specific individual is part of the experimental or control group. In this way, the naturalistic observation would be more reliable, eliminating this possible bias.

Electronically activated recorder

Finally, we are going to learn more about a technique that has been used in recent years to carry out some types of naturalistic observation. This is the use of the electronically activated recorder , or EAR, for its acronym in English (Electronically Activated Recorder). This device is designed for observations made in a fairly large population sample and in a relatively long period of time, which represents an important advance in the use of this popular methodology. Naturalistic observation definition

As, under these conditions, the amount of data collected would be so enormous that we would have serious difficulties to analyze it correctly, what is done is to use this small recorder, which the person wears attached to their belt or in some other place on their body, and it turns on automatically during certain times, to record the sounds of different time bands. Thus we get a sample of recordings of many different moments and of multitudes of people.

Thanks to the EAR methodology, the doors have been opened to carry out the naturalistic observation method in very large populations . This represents a great advance, since, with the technical and human  resources of the usual studies, the classic thing was to use a reduced sample, and from there the results would have to be extrapolated to the general population. Instead, we now have the option of conducting large-scale studies, and at affordable costs, which opens the door to much more ambitious research.

It is another example of how the development of technologies allows us to continue advancing on the path of knowledge, making science enrich itself with new methodologies or with classical methodologies that evolve and adapt to new times, as is the case of science. naturalistic observation with electronically activated recorder. We must continue to monitor new developments and thus have at our disposal the most advanced tools to develop new and enriching research. Naturalistic observation definition

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