Forms, methods and types of observation in psychology
Twenty four. That is how many methods, forms, methods and types of observation exist in psychology today. Some of them were used only in the initial stages of the development of science, and some were created quite recently, but each of them should be discussed separately.
About observation in general
Observation is the purposeful study and registration of the behavior of an object. The observer should create the conditions for the process, but they should in no way interfere with life.
Observation differs from passive contemplation of reality, because it has a definite goal, is carried out according to a predetermined plan and has special substantive means that allow not only to fix the results, but also to maintain the situation at the required level.
It can be said that observation is an active form of sensory knowledge. With its help, it is possible to accumulate empirical information, form initial representations, or verify pre-set assumptions regarding the object of study.It is believed that this method was the first scientific method of psychological research. During the development of science, several specific types of observation were formed.
Usually the observation is considered from three different sides. Depending on the situation and scope of use, there are:
- Observation as a method.
- As an activity.
- As a technique.
Observation may beby scientific methodthen it will include a system of principles of knowledge, statements about the nature and specifics of psychological observation about the possibilities of human activity. This option is considered universal and is used to study a wide range of phenomena. The method of observation is quite flexible, and if necessary, the researcher can change the "field of coverage", put forward and test additional hypotheses during the experiment. Moreover, such an activity requires minimal hardware. Specificity is also related to the object being studied: the researcher does not interfere in his life, but at the same time maintains visual and auditory contact.
Observation as an activityapplied in some practical areas. For example, the operator of energy systems looks at the indicators of the devices, the doctor examines the patients, the investigator observes the criminal, etc.
On the third hand, there is alsoobservation technique.It is a socially fixed subject system for data collection and processing, which is presented in a language understandable to others and corresponds to the tasks identified earlier.
Features of the method
Various types of observation have been widely used since the end of the 19th century in those areas where the behavior of a person who has fallen into different situations was of particular importance. Observation has been applied and applied in the case when the researcher is unable or is not allowed to interfere with the natural course of the life process.
Observation is considered an irreplaceable source of information if the psychologist needs to create a complete picture of what is happening and display the behavior of each participant in its entirety. The main features of the method include the following characteristics:
- Direct connection of the researcher and the object of observation.
- The emotional component of the experiment.
- It is difficult or impossible to conduct a similar experiment again.
In the natural sciences, the researcher usually does not affect the phenomenon being studied. On the other hand, in psychology there is the problem of interaction between the scientist and the subject. If a person knows that he is being monitored, this can significantly affect his behavior. Therefore, in order to minimize such an impact, the observer needs to “become familiar” with the subject or justify his presence for any reason that does not focus on the person.
Types of observation
Usually the type of observation is determined by the objectives, object and situation of the study. Thus, it is customary to distinguish between:
- Objective observation and self-observation.
- Field and laboratory research.
- Individual and collective experiment.
- Random and intentional study.
- Systematic and non-systematic observation.
- Complete and incomplete study.
- Solid and selective experiment.
- Statutory and evaluative learning.
- Standardized and non-standardized observation.
- Research open and closed.
- Included and not included experiment.
- Direct and indirect research.
Thus, we see that there are 12 pairs of forms, types and methods of observation. Consider them separately.
Objective, laboratory and field research
The first type of observation method to which attention should be paid is called objective. This is the study of the object from the outside, that is, the observer looks at those objects that are external to him. This type of observation is widely used in psychology and sociology, as well as in related disciplines. This method is also called external observation.
Introspection (self-observation or internal research) was used in the early stages of the development of psychology. The subject independently observed himself and recorded changes in consciousness. Now as a method is used very rarely.
Field (it is also natural observation) is the study of objects that are in their natural habitat. This type of observation method is usually considered an independent way to collect data. It is possible to combine with other research methods, if the observation is the main component of the study, and all other methods are auxiliary or will take place at another time.
Experimental, or laboratory research is carried out in artificially created conditions. The degree of this artificiality can be different: the minimum (when a relaxed conversation is conducted) or the maximum (when a person is placed in a special room and issue instructions for behavior). Unlike field research, experimental observation is almost always associated with other empirical research methods.
Individual, collective, casual and intentional observation
Individual research is a type of statistical observation that is performed by a single scientist. An observer may be the only one studying this project, but may also be part of a group of scientists. In the latter case, he will study the object independently, but his work will be part of the project.
Collective research is carried out by a group of several individuals. They have a common plan of action, use the same methodology and pursue the same goal. In some cases it is assumed that this type of observation in psychology is determined by the simultaneity of the study.
Accidental research is not planned in advance, but is carried out due to the fact that the circumstances have arisen. The value of this type and method of observation is in the study of rare events, the appearance of which is impossible to predict. For example, here we can talk about UFOs or sudden natural disasters. Random observations are divided into two types: everyday and professional. Everyday observations made by every person in everyday life. Occupational accidental observation occurs unintentionally as a result of professional activity. In this case, the scientist is already internally ready for the observation and can see something interesting where the ordinary person cannot. In this way, many discoveries of the past were accomplished. Intentional observation is planned and has specific goals.
Systematic and complete research
Depending on the systematic type of observation are divided into systematic and non-systematic.
Systematic observations are made according to a previously created plan and schedule. The concept of systematicity is considered here in two aspects:
- Procedural.There are clearly defined tasks, goals, a working hypothesis has been formulated. The actions of the observer are determined and ordered in advance. You can also observe a thoughtful system of recorded indicators.
- Temporary. Multiple observations are planned and balanced in advance. Simply put, a person is observed, some manifestations of character are recorded, and this procedure is repeated when his life situation changes or he turns a certain number of years. For example, due to temporary observation, it was found that a person’s character changes every seven years.
On the other hand, there are unsystematic studies that do not have a specific plan of action. The procedural aspect is manifested in the ambiguity of the tasks and there is no provision for registering the facts. The time aspect is expressed in conducting multiple observations at random.
Another type of statistical observation is called complete. The main task of the researcher is to cover and record all the available information about the subject of study. Usually this method is used to better study the object of study.However, there are situations when such an approach is a necessary measure. This occurs in cases where it is unknown what factors have influenced a person’s behavior.
With incomplete observation, the researcher draws attention to the optimal number of factors by which certain conclusions can be drawn. Before starting the observation, the researcher compiles a list of factors that need attention, usually this is done in order to eliminate unwanted informational gaps.
Selective experiment and statement of facts
Full observation is constant and is used for short-term study of the object in order to get more complete information about the dynamics.
The form and type of observation of a continuous character is often confused with full observation. However, the “continuous-selective” scale characterizes temporary reality, and the “full-incomplete” scale characterizes quantitative reality. That is, any complete observation can be either complete or incomplete. Sampling observations are usually carried out in separate time intervals. The researcher determines at his discretion.
Another type and method of statistical observation is ascertaining. Any phenomena are recorded by the researcher, but not subject to discussion or evaluation. As a rule, recorded facts do not require additional interpretation. For example, photos - it is difficult to interpret the image as something different.
Assessing observation is an activity in which the researcher makes an assessment of a situation or a fixed phenomenon. Usually this method is used when hypotheses are put forward and it is necessary to explain the factors that unite the process of perception. Evaluative observations are generalizing and interpretative.
Standards. Open and closed studies
Also, observations can be standardized and non-standardized. The first ones are carried out according to a predetermined scheme, which is a reference for fixing and recording parameters in a particular situation. For example, if the phenomenon being studied is understandable and only need to fix some elements, researchers can use forms that are made according to a certain standard.In turn, non-standardized observation is carried out in a free form. As a researcher wants, and describes what is happening. This method allows you to look at the object from a different angle and allows you to see those patterns that were not previously seen.
With open observation, individuals are aware of their role as "experimental", sometimes even familiar with the observer. True, this method somewhat limits the field of action of the researcher. Hidden research is carried out imperceptibly for the subjects and is considered more common, although it can often entail ethical difficulties.
Included, direct, provoked
With the observation switched on, the researcher is a member of the group he is studying. So to say, trying to understand it from the inside. Despite its multiple advantages, this observation has a significant drawback: scientists can lose their objectivity by moving from the position of a scientist to the role of a test subject.
It should be noted that observations can be made not only by people interested in the results, but also by their representatives. When a scientist observes, this is a direct study, when the mediator is an indirect one. Usually indirect observations are called obtaining information from witnesses of the event.For example, in law enforcement agencies, the testimony of people who became unwitting witnesses to a crime is important.
Subject of observation
Depending on what the subject of study will be, the researcher chooses the necessary forms and types of statistical observations. Usually the objects are:
- Verbal behavior - also takes into account the content, duration and intensity of speech.
- Non-verbal behavior - examines facial expressions and gestures.
- Move people.
Simply put, objects can be any situation that can be clearly fixed. The researchers are not interested in the properties of the psyche, only statistics and facts. But based on the position that the properties of the psyche manifest themselves in behavior, a psychologist can build hypotheses based on the collected facts on mental properties.
When conducting a study, it is important to fulfill such requirements:
- Determine in advance what type of observation will be more optimal, and draw up a research program, highlighting the most important objects and stages.
- In no way affect the natural course of events.
- Observation must be repeated and systematic (especially if it concerns the study of personality).
- Investigating mental phenomena, observations should be carried out at different sites. Even if you need to study a person, more detailed information can be obtained by comparing it with others.
Means of observation and code of ethics
The researcher himself can carry out the observation, or he can use various fixing devices - voice recorders, cameras, etc. It is important to understand that observation is not an experiment, because: firstly, it does not change the surrounding reality, and secondly, the observer fixes only what he sees.
In Russia, scientists can make observations at any time convenient for them. In America, things are not so simple. Here there is the ethical code of the American Psychological Association, which allows for observation, subject to certain rules, namely:
- It is necessary to obtain the consent of the participants to conduct the study The only exceptions are observations that are carried out in public places.
- Psychologists should not harm the subjects, and if it cannot be avoided - reduce the possible damage.
- Minimize the invasion of privacy.
- Do not disclose confidential data about observers.
In psychology, observation is considered an irreplaceable source of empirical information, because only being alone or in the usual conditions a person drops all the masks, allowing emotions to prevail over the mind, thereby exposing their true nature.