Observation of Social Behavior

Applied Final Project – Observation of Social Behavior

This assignment will leverage your curiosity. It will invite you to explore your ideas and connect social psychology to daily life.

The Observation of Social Behavior project is an integrative assignment that supports synthesis and the third learning outcome for the course:

· explain and analyze the underlying causes of behaviors to inform decisions in social, personal, and professional interactions

Objective :  Design, conduct, and report on a brief study that uses naturalistic observation in a public/communal space to answer a research question you develop on a topic related to social psychology. Submit a 6- to 8-page, APA style research paper, that communicates how specific topics, theories, and research findings discussed in this course shaped: 1) your research question, 2) the approach applied and behaviors observed, and 3) your understanding of the observation(s) upon conclusion.

What is Naturalistic Observation?

In Principles of Social Psychology, our eBook for this course, Jhangiani and Tarry (2014) introduce observational research.  In Chapter 1 they outline how observational research refers to different types of qualitative studies in which behavior is systematically observed and recorded in an objective manner. The goal of observational research is to capture a snapshot of the characteristics (to include behaviors) of an individual, group, or setting, at a given place and time. As such, observational research is considered non-experimental because nothing is manipulated or controlled; thus, cause-and-effect conclusions cannot be drawn.

There are several different types of observational research designs. These include case studies, structured observations, participant observation, and naturalistic observation. For this assignment you will use naturalistic observation. [If you would like to read further on the other design types, a useful, brief description is offered by  Price et al. (2017) .]

According to Salkind (2010), naturalistic observation affords us the opportunity to observe organisms in their natural settings. “Behaviors or other phenomena of interest are observed and recorded by the researcher, whose presence might be either known or unknown to the subjects….No manipulation of the environment is involved in naturalistic observation, as the activities of interest are those manifested in everyday situations” (para. 1).


Using naturalistic observation, you will seek to answer a research question you develop on a topic related to social psychology.  In doing so you will: 1) describe behavior as it occurs in the natural setting, and 2) describe the variables that are present and the relations among them.



Instructions Summary : The principal steps for the assignment are…

1. Choose a topic or theory covered within the course content (e.g., altruism, attraction, conformity, gender, group influence, persuasion).

2. Research the topic using the UMGC Library to learn more about it.

3. Develop a research question you would like to explore through naturalistic observation. Question must be answerable through observation.

4. Create your observation strategy that will enable you to explore your research question. Include in this planning data collection/coding strategies.

5. Conduct the observation and evaluate the qualitative data collected.

6. Write and submit for grading a well composed, 6- to 8-page APA style formatted Observation of Social Behavior research paper. Included in the submitted document will be an Appendix containing Annotated Abstracts.  The Appendix will  not  count towards the required page count for the body of the paper.  The all-inclusive page count for the submitted document (Title Page, Report, References, and Appendix) will be approximately 11 to 14 pages.

Requirements :

Submit a single document that 1) introduces an appropriate research question grounded in social psychology; 2) answers the research question through naturalistic observation; and 3) addresses the requirements listed here.

Observations are ONLY to be made in public places, communal spaces in your home, or via public webcams (e.g., Zoos have “live” webcams that enable one to see the public within habitat areas).  Observations may not be made in private areas (e.g., bathroom, bedroom).  Observations must be unobtrusive, meaning you may not interact with observed subjects. You cannot speak to subjects or solicit written responses to questions or surveys. [See the “More on Unobtrusive Observation” box below to learn more about why unobtrusive observation is important to your project.]

Your research can revisit a social psychology related question or study found within the empirical literature, or you can develop a new research question of your own design.  In both approaches, you will have the opportunity to synthesize information from the course, expressing your understanding on the topic.

Within the document…

1. Introduce . Concisely introduce the reader to the research topic addressed through your observation project. Clearly define terms and theory when introduced in the paper. Anchor the paper through a well-constructed thesis statement.

2. Have purpose.  Your research question should clearly relate to a social psychology topic/theory.  Dedicate discussion to the origins of the research question, to include support from existing studies. All topics are to be discussed in clear detail.

Connect.   In the introduction of the research question, and in the discussion of the observation outcomes, support assertions made. Express interrelated ideas coherently and logically.

1. Include sources.  Incorporate course sources and a minimum of five (5) peer-reviewed professional sources from our UMGC Library. [In an Appendix to the study, present a copy of the abstracts from five peer-reviewed journal articles, along with a summary of how the articles facilitated your research. More on the Appendix requirement is provided below.]

2. Use Authorial Voice.   Discuss materials in your own words and your own writing style and structure. Avoid excessive use of direct quotes. Doing so may incur a point penalty for each occurrence and will not be accepted as content towards the page count of the reflection paper.

3. Apply APA Style **. Neatly and concisely present an APA formatted document containing

· Title Page

· Introduction

· Method

· Subjects

· Setting

· Procedure

· Results

· Conclusions

· References

· Appendix

· Properly formatted in-text citations and references

**Use APA style  headings  and subheadings, double-spacing, an appropriate  serif or sans serif font  (e.g., Times Roman 12-point; Arial 11-point; Calibri 11-point), 1-inch margins (left, right, top, and bottom), page numbering, and logical flow from topic to topic.  Write with clarity, paying attention to spelling,  grammar , and syntax. Consult the  UMGC Citing and Writing Guide , for proper form of  APA Style  in-text  citations  and  references .  You can also take advantage of the UMGC Effective Writing Center to gain early feedback and assistance with APA compliance.

UMGC’s Effective Writing Center:  https://www.umgc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/index.cfm 

*Check the Course Schedule in this syllabus for the due date. Your instructor will determine the penalty for late submission of papers.

More on Unobtrusive Observation

During your naturalistic observation study, it is important that you do not interfere or intervene in the behavior being studied. The main reason you must be unobtrusive in your study is to avoid interfering or changing the behavior of the participants being observed.  Being unobtrusive supports avoiding reactance or reactivity effect.  Reactance refers to the biasing of the participants’ responses because they know they are being observed.

To offer an example, consider the studies conducted at the Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne plant in Illinois between 1927 and 1933 (Roethlisberger & Dickson, 1939). The purpose of the studies was to determine the effects of working hours and lighting quality on employee productivity. When researchers compared the productivity of the participants in variable manipulated (test) conditions to others within the plant, unusual findings emerged. The participants in the manipulated conditions often produced at higher rates, to include under conditions that were deemed inferior (e.g., reduce lighting) to those within the standard operating conditions of the plant. The increased performance under inferior conditions was unexpected and thereby, puzzling. This prompted a series of additional studies to assess the source of influence that moved the participants in the inferior conditions to produce at rates higher than those within the general plant. The answer discovered: workers who knew they were research participants and that they were being observed increased productivity. Thus, the knowledge that one is participating in an experiment or is being observed may result in dramatic changes in behavior. [Because of the location of the original studies at the Western Electric Company, the reactivity phenomena are often referred to as the, Hawthorne effect.]

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