Up Learn – A Level Psychology (AQA) – research methods (part 1)
What is Controlled Observation?
A controlled observation is when researchers conduct observations of participants in a controlled environment. In a controlled observation, the researcher selects which participants to observe, where and when to observe them, and standardises the procedure. This means that researchers have good control over extraneous variables. But a con of controlled observations is that they might lack ecological validity.
More videos on Research Methods (Part 1):
Research Methods (Part 1)
Last time, we saw that when researchers observe participants, and measure or record their behaviour, we call it the…
We call it the observational technique.
There are three key decisions that researchers have to make when they use the observational technique:
They need to decide on the type of observation, how aware the participants will be, and the role the researcher will play.
So, first up, researchers need to decide what type of observation to conduct.
There are two types of observation: controlled and naturalistic observations.
First we’re going to look at controlled observations.
For example, here’s Emma, a sleep researcher.
Emma is interested in the association between number of hours a student sleeps, and the amount of social interaction the students have with their friends.
To investigate the association between sleep and the amount of time students spend interacting with their friends, Emma gets her participants to come into her laboratory.
First, she measures the amount of time that the students sleep.
Then, the next day, also in the laboratory, she observes the amount of time they spend interacting with their friends.
Emma is conducting a correlational study.
Now, in her studyexperiment, Emma decides where and when the students will sleep, and makes sure the light levels and noise levels are consistent across all of the participants.
In other words, she controls her environmental surroundings, or situational variables.
Now, in her experiment, Emma carefully controls her environmental surroundings.
And, when researchers conduct observations of participants in a controlled environment like this, we call it a controlled observation.
Now, controlled observations don’t have to be conducted in a laboratory, although they very often are…
Instead, we say an observation is controlled if the researcher can decide which participants to observe, where and when the observation takes place, and can control the environment and use a standardised procedure.
So, which of these is a controlled observation?
These are controlled observations, but this is not.
And this also isn’t, because the researchers have used questionnaires, a self-report technique.
So, Emma uses a controlled observation to study the association between sleep and social interaction.
But, there are a few problems with her study…
Because the students are sleeping in an unfamiliar laboratory instead of their own beds, they sleep worse than usual.
In their own rooms, when they sleep, they’re used to different light and noise levels, and different mattresses, so the change in environment disrupts their sleep.
And when Emma measures the interactions between students and their friends, she’s observing them in a laboratory…
But the students feel weird about being in a research laboratory with a researcher watching their every move, so, they hang back and talk less than usual.
This means that the students’ behaviour in the study may not generalise to how they would behave in everyday life!
In other words, the study lacks ecological validity.
Since her study lacks ecological validity, Emma decides to study a second observation, which this time, will be a naturalistic observation.
And we’ll see what that means next – but first, to sum it up, a controlled observation is…
A controlled observation is when researchers conduct observations of participants in a controlled environment.
In a controlled observation, the researcher selects which participants to observe, where and when to observe them, and standardises the procedure.
This means that researchers have good control over extraneous variables…
But a con of controlled observations is that they might lack ecological validity.