Advantages and Disadvantages of Naturalistic Observation

Naturalistic observation is a type of research method that scientists use to collect data and information about different types of things. What it means is that the subject(s) are observed, unknowingly, in their natural environment. Their behaviors and reactions to things are perceived as genuine and not manipulated, unlike many other types of research methods where the subject is aware that they are being examined. It is argued that this is the most realistic and accurate for of observation that can be used, but it certainly poses it’s own unique disadvantages.

The Advantages of Naturalistic Observation

1. Natural Behaviors
When there is no influence on the behaviors of the subject, the data collected is much more genuine. People show their true feelings, reactions, and behaviors when they are not being examined or watched.

2. Aids In Research Validation
Often times, naturalistic observation is used to validate results from experiments that have already been done. They help to confirm or disprove this data because it gives a truly accurate account of results.

3. Puts Thing In Real World View
Tests can be conducted in a real world setting. This makes the answers that are obtained much more relevant to the hypothesis’s impact in true, real life settings. This is a type of view that is much more difficult, or nearly impossible, to get with other types of experiments and observations that can be done.

4. Allows You To Study Unethical Topics
There are many things that need to be studied in depth in order for us to understand them better. However, not all circumstances are fit for throwing people into a scientific study of their behaviors or emotions. One good example of this would be the effects that school shootings have on students at the school. Naturalistic observation allows researchers to gather valuable data, without interrupting the emotional well being of the subject.

The Disadvantages of Naturalistic Observation

1. Outside Influences
When conduction a naturalistic observation you have almost no control over the influences around you subject. These interferences could easily impact the results of the test and render it useless.

2. Difference of Opinion
Everyone looks at things different, and this includes researchers and scientists. Two people can observe the same subject do the same exact thing, and yet they may draw two very different conclusions from the actions or behaviors. This bias is the biggest things that critics of naturalistic observations argue.

3. Difficult To Keep It Natural
As you would imagine, it can be difficult to conduct an examination or experiment on a person without their knowing. You would often have to be at such a distance that you may not get the full scope of what is happening or the behaviors that are being exhibited.

4. Can Take A Long Time
In order to draw true results, you have to observe the same subject doing the same thing for a long period of time. This shows you what the true data and results of the experiment are. Some naturalistic observations can last months or even years to complete.

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Important Facts About Naturalistic Observation

  • The exact opposite of naturalistic observation is called analog observation. This is when all factors are manipulated by researchers.
  • The three steps of naturalistic observation are description, prediction, and explanation.
  • This form of observation requires the most meticulous note taking and in depth researcher involvement.
  • The real world data that is collected has ecological validity. Meaning it the situations studies exist in the real world.
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