As a result of studying this chapter, students will: know

• the main content of the observation method, its types and purpose;

• requirements for the observation technique;

• rules for maintaining the monitoring protocol; be able to

• to distinguish between the concepts of observation as a kind of activity, as a method of scientific work and as a technique for collecting scientific data in psychological research;


• The skills of maintaining a monitoring protocol, analyzing its results.

Observation along with experiment is one of the main methods of obtaining scientific knowledge. And the observation is a historically earlier method, which began to be applied even before the advent of the experiment and was in fact identified with the experimental method until recently. Its relevance is not lost to this day. This is the only method of investigation that does not imply an active change in the reality under study, although it does not preclude it.

In general, observation can be defined as a purposeful and specially organized perception. The implementation of observation may seem a fairly simple activity: you just need to enter into some situation and observe what is happening. However, observation as a research method has its own characteristics, which must be taken into account for its effective application.

In psychology, in view of the complexity of the subject of its study, observation is particularly important and often turns out to be the only method available to the researcher. This method is widely used both for the purpose of building fundamental scientific knowledge and for applied purposes.

Observation can be viewed from three different sides:

- as a type of activity in the work of a wide range of specialists, as well as in everyday life;

- as a scientific method, along with other methods (such as experiment or conversation);

- as a concrete technique - the embodiment of the method applied to a specific study.

In this chapter, we will look at all three positions.

Observation as activity

Observation as an activity is used in a large number of diverse professions. As an important component of the work process, surveillance is included in the work of air traffic controllers, doctors, road traffic inspectors, investigators, educators, operators of complex devices, etc. - examples can be listed endlessly. It can be about observing both the behavior of people, and the state and operation of technology.

The distinctive characteristic of carrying out such an observation in comparison with observing a scientific one is that the results of simple observation are applied directly and immediately. Depending on the detected instrument readings, the air traffic controller immediately gives or does not give a landing, corrects the altitude of the flight; the veterinarian observes the condition of the animal and on the basis of this immediately suggests a treatment regimen; the investigator, observing the suspect, makes conclusions about the possibility of developing new versions and ways of doing business. Scientific observation is carried out for the accumulation and generalization of knowledge, and not for the momentary application of the results obtained. If we characterize the purpose of scientific observation as building knowledge, their generalization and accumulation, then the goal of applied observation will be to gain knowledge about this particular object in this particular situation in order to implement the necessary practical effects.

In psychological work, observation for applied purposes is used in psychodiagnostics, in psychotherapy, in the work of children's and school psychologists, clinical psychologists and in a number of other cases. In any practical activity of psychologists, the main body of data is obtained through observation. In addition, surveillance is a powerful means of verifying the data received by other methods and correcting the conclusions drawn from them. The method of observation is the only available method of the psychologist's work in those cases when the subjects can not be interviewed about what and how they do - for example, in working with children of a certain age, in situations of interaction, when the result does not depend on one person, but on the interaction of several people.

Observation is carried out not only in the professional, but also in everyday life: we observe the people around us, notice some peculiarities of their behavior and, based on this, we can draw some conclusions about them or somehow adjust their actions. There are people who do it more or less successfully. However, such everyday observation can most often be described as having no purpose, passive, non-systematic: everything that "catches your eye" is simply observed, there are special conditions for observing.

Scientific, or research, observation differs from everyday life primarily by purposefulness and activity.

By purposefulness is meant the mediation of observing a cognitive goal, which sets what should be subject to observation. For example, the purpose of scientific observation may be to study the behavior of preschool children when meeting peers, or to study the reactions of adults in situations that provoke aggression, and much more. And this goal will determine what exactly, how and where exactly should be observed.

The activity of scientific observation implies the presence of a pre-designed plan, in accordance with which observation is conducted, the choice of objects and situations of observation, the development of methods for recording results, etc. It is in this sense that the person who conducts scientific observation is active: he not only observes everything that is happening around him, but he is active in the process of preparing the observation and in the process of implementing it, selecting and fixing the phenomena set by the purpose and program of observation. Here we do not mean activity as interference in observed phenomena, it is about the activity of the observation process itself.

Other differences of scientific observation from the everyday are its systematic (ie, repeated or repeatable, which makes it possible to distinguish random phenomena from those that occur naturally), the use of special rules for its conduct and methods of fixing the obtained data, as well as other characteristics that distinguish any everyday knowledge from the scientific in general (see Chapter 1 "Functional duties of a psychologist").

Note that observation as one of the types of human activity can become a subject of psychological research, along with other activities. However, unlike other types of human activity, observation can simultaneously be viewed as a means or means of obtaining new scientific facts. In this case, observation becomes a method of scientific knowledge.

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