Methods of Naturalistic Observation and Self-Report in Psychology


Naturalistic Observation

  • Researcher collects information without the participant’s awareness
  • Advantages: Researcher does not influence the participant’s behavior, so it may be more representative than if people knew they were being watched
  • Disadvantages: Not everything can be observed in its natural environment, expensive

Structured Observation

  • Researchers can set up a situation and observe that participant’s behavior
  • Advantages: Researcher has more control of the situation and can keep most variables under control
  • Disadvantages: Participant is aware of the researcher and may be influenced


  • Participants are asked to provide information or responses to questions on a survey
  • Advantages: They are easy to create and score, computers allow data collection
  • Disadvantages: often differences between what people really think and do and what they believe or want the researcher to believe


We can also use technological devices to measure what is taking place


Researchers can examine data that has already been collected for other purposes

Study Designs

Case Studies

  • Research can conduct a detailed analysis of a particular person, group, event, etc
  • Advantages: Researchers can study unusual, rare, or difficult-to-find participants or events
  • Disadvantage: What happens with one case may not generalize to other cases

Correlational Designs

2 different variables measured to determine if a relationship between them

Controlled Experiments

Researchers create a controlled environment in which they can carefully manipulate at least one variable to test its effect on another

Placebo Effect

What participants expect to experience – participants believe what is really happening

Demand Characteristics

Participant knows what is expected or hypothesized in an experiment

Rosenthal Effect

Person running the experiment has expectations, could influence the study

Double-Blind Procedures

Neither the participants or the researchers interacting with them know who has been assigned to the experimental or control groups

Social Desirability Bias

What the participants think is the polite, appropriate, or normal thing to say

Negative Correlation

Relationship between two variables where one increases as other decreases

Positive Correlation

Relationship between two variables where if one variable increases, the other one also increases, or if one decreases, the other decreases – must be the same

Curvilinear Relationships

The data points increase together up to a certain point and then as one increases, the other decreases or vice versa

Spurious Relationship [Spurious Correlation]

Relationship where two or more events or variables are not causally related to each other


Fears are learned, not inherited


Some environmental event that we hear, see, feel, smell or taste

Classical learning

Involves learning that a stimulus that would otherwise have no biological meaning is associated with something that does

Neutral Stimulus (NS)

There is no naturally wired response to the neutral stimulus. It is just neutral

Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS)

A stimulus which causes a naturally wired response

Unconditioned Response (UCR)

Response caused by stimulus naturally, without conscious thought

Conditioned Stimulus (CS)

The NS always becomes the CS

Conditioned Response (CR)

The unnatural response that you want to create


Getting used to something – repeated exposure to the same exact stimuli


Eliminate response by presenting stimuli constantly to weaken any associations

Systematic Desensitization

Start out with easy stimulus and slowly work up to the real stimulus


To reduce a fear response associate stimulus with something positive

Aversive Stimulus

Creating a negative association with things we do not want to like as much

Aversion Therapy

To counter-condition away a positive response with an aversive stimulus

Garcia Effect: taste aversion

Learning to avoid a food that makes you sick


Tending to avoid or causing avoidance of a noxious or punishing stimulus

Operant Conditioning

Intelligent creatures adjust their behavior to maximize desirable outcomes and minimize harmful or aversive ones

Law of Effect

A behavior is more likely to occur if it leads to a desirable effect

Radical Behaviorism

The theoretical argument that the environment determines all behavior

Reinforcers vs. Punishers

A reinforcer is some stimulus that an animal wants to receive

Primary vs. Secondary

Primary stimuli are things that have a natural effect without any learning necessary

Four categories of stimuli that will influence behavior

Primary reinforcers are naturally desirable

Changing behavior using operant conditioning

  1. Reinforcement (R) vs. Punishment (P)
  2. Positive (+) vs. Negative (-)

Schedules of Reinforcement

Five general patterns in which reinforcers or punishers are delivered


The process of unlearning a behavior when reinforcement is no longer associated with it