Naturalistic Observation

  • Section 1: Naturalistic Observation

    The first half of your research will be a naturalistic observation. You will be determining the baseline of behavior, or what the behavior looks like, or the amount of the behavior present under normal circumstances. The observer is unobtrusive, rather like the wallpaper. There is no interference with the behavior.

    You are to select a human behavior. Discuss the problem surrounding this behavior. The following is a list of topics which have been used in the past. You may select from the list or develop one of your own. Select a behavior which you encounter each day. The greatest challenge is isolating or narrowing the behavior to a single event which you can define, count, and attempt to change or observe as changed in a different environment.

    • Eye contact
    • Hand washing
    • Door opening for others
    • Money on the ground
    • Cleaning off the table after you eat in a fast food restaurant
    • Response time of clerks when the researcher dresses poorly or nicely
    • Tips – restaurant, beauty salon, etc.
    • Helpful behavior when toilet paper is attached to the researchers shoe in a public place
    • Hand waving when driving down a country road
    • Changing television stations in a public waiting room
    • Products purchased from shelves of different height
    • Color of products purchased
    • Seating behaviors in school cafeteria or restaurant
    • Stop light running
    • Use of cell phones in school areas
    • Use of cell phones while driving
    • Purchasing one item or the “full meal deal” at a fast food restaurant
    • Human responses to walking dogs of different sizes or breeds
    • Human response to “Don’t walk on the grass!” signs
    • Driver behavior while waiting on a stop light (make-up, hair combing using rear view mirror)
    • Assistance reaching items from the top shelf
    • Dropping a dollar while walking through Walmart…will someone return the dollar? (Can be an expensive project.)
    • Returning shopping carts to the proper areas
    • Smiling or waving “thank you” when a car stops to allow shoppers to cross in the parking lot
    • Behavior in the check-out line: smiling, conversation…
    • The behavior of children in the check-out line (pulling things from shelves, yelling, smiling, climbing out of cart….)
    • Behavior of children in a classroom (talking, out of seat, interrupting, turning in homework….)

    DO NOT:

    • Place a baby carrier on top of a car and drive around the mall parking lot to see if someone will attempt to stop you
    • Stop your car by the side of the road to see if someone might stop and assist
    • Attempt a tail gating experiment of any kind
    • Select any behavior which might be harmful, socially offensive, or immoral

    Complete the Observation Project Form. Write a theory and hypothesis, explain the procedure you will use to determine if the theory and hypothesis are supported, give the result or the count, and finally, discuss your results or findings.

  •  Section 2: Experiment

    The second half of the project will be a type of experiment. By introducing a variable, you will attempt to increase or decrease a behavior. For example, one student in Iraq counted the number of men who failed to wash their hands after using the latrine next to the dining facility. This student’s count suggested a problem. During the behavior change section of the project, the student placed honey (the independent variable) on the handles of the doors. As a result, hand washing (the dependent variable) increased.

    Your project will require you to walk through the same steps again, but from the point of view of changing or improving the behavior. Begin with your own results. That is the statement of the problem. You have counted and found that, yes, this is an area of human behavior which should be improved. Complete the Observation Project Form. Again, APA documentation style must be used when citing references in context and references (if any). Your textbook may be your only reference.

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