Naturalistic Observation

Naturalistic Observation is something that is common to everyone with or without conducting an experiment. When you do use naturalistic observation in an experiment, you are watching people and seeing the way they act, react, and interact with a certain situation or with other people. This way, you are able to see them in a setting where they typically are unaware they are being observed. I have had to conduct an experiment involving naturalistic observation when observing students purchasing soda in the student union. Naturalistic observation as many advantages when you are trying to get the most accurate results. At the same time, naturalistic observation comes with a few disadvantages.

My experiment that I had to conduct was at the Penn State: Greater Allegheny branch campus in the student cafeteria. Since it is a branch of Penn State, there was a good diverse group of nationalities. With a “total of 150 participants were involved in which 68 were women and 82 were men” Hoch (2012) asserted that previous literature on the Comparison of the Purchasing of Soda Between Genders (p. 1). I watched student who were ringing out at the cafeteria to see the ration of soda buyers in comparison to other type of drink buyers. I would have to sit in the café and watch people go threw the line and then I would record my results to look over them later and compare.

There are many advantages to naturalistic observations such as that you are in a setting in which no one really knows you are watching them. When I conducted my experiment, no one knew that I was watching him or her choose what kind of drink he or she chose for that day. This can lead to more accurate results due to the fact that they aren’t influenced to choose a certain beverage when knowing someone was watching. This would be a good method to use when you want to find out a certain result in a setting that the participant would better act themselves rather than them knowing.

The disadvantages of naturalistic observation are because they do not know they are being watched, they may not respond or react in favor to the experiment. They may not have purchased a soda, and since I did not record when a person did not purchase a drink, the experiment it probably flawed. If a person knew, you would be allowing them to decide whether they want a drink or not what kind of drink they would choose. You would also be able to communicate with them and even when your not watching them ask what kind of drink they had bought from the cafeteria.

In this paper, we have talked about a few topics dealing with naturalistic observation. My experiment done in the past was a perfect example of naturalistic observation. We have also learned the advantages to using this method in research in good situations, meant to be watched in a neutral setting. We have also looked at how there may be a disadvantage to conducting an naturalistic observation experiment. Even with learning all the disadvantages and advantages, one can believe this is a good and accurate way of conducting an experiment as I have learned while I was conducting mine.




Hoch, Z. (2012). A Comparison for Purchasing Soda Between Genders. Unpublished manuscript, Pennsylvania State University.


3 thoughts on “Naturalistic Observation

  1. Donyel D Gaymon

    I would have to say that I agree with you that naturalistic observations is something people in society naturally do on a regular basis but aren’t aware there doing it. I can say for myself I live to observe people, places, and things that happen around me. My boyfriend calls this being aware of my surroundings at all times. It is true that a great deal of people aren’t observant to someone watching them intently they tend to do more or act a certain way when they feel as though no one is watching. But when I get a weft of someone watching them closely they tend to switch things up. In your experiment you made a comment that there are some disadvantages and advantages when it comes to Naturalistic Observation I can say I can understand you’re reasoning for such and agree that you are right about that conclusion when conducting a naturalistic observation experiment it has its pros and cons. What could have been most helpful while conducting your experiment would have been these techniques when collecting data, such as Tally counts, audio and video recording, and observer narratives (Kendra Cherry). I loved your post it made understand naturalistic observation and apply it to real life situations. Overall when I think of naturalistic observation I think of children. When children feel as though no one is watching they will get into something they have no business in but soon as they feel the parent or authoritative adult watching them they begin to pretend as if they just weren’t doing any wrong.

  2. Cassandra Farmer

    This was a great post about naturalistic observation! I personally believe that this is one of the best ways to do an observation, due to the fact that the people whom you were observing did not know they were being watched, so they could act naturally. I feel like in other observations if the participants know they are being observed, they try to act as normal as possible but sometimes they don’t and they don’t even realize it. I too had to do a study once where I chose naturalistic observation. I had to go to a market and observe what people were buying and what stands were getting the most business. No one knew I was observing them so I feel like I got true results since they were just going about their regular routines.

  3. Courtney Kay Anderson

    I was curious to know what other cognitive studies have been done using naturalistic observation. One famous example of naturalistic observation is Charles Darwin’s journey aboard the HMS Beagle, which is where he discovered his idea of natural selection. Naturalistic observation differs from structured observation in that it involves looking at a behavior as it occurs in its natural setting with no attempts at intervention on the part of the researcher. This type of research is generally done when conducting lab research is unrealistic, cost prohibitive, or would unduly affect the subject’s behavior.

    Darwin took notebooks to record his observations and later transcribed them into journals on the HMS Beagle. This is called an observer narrative. Some data collection methods can use tally counts or audio/video recordings. Darwin didn’t actually discover natural selection on this trip, but it was a contribution along with other scientific samples and data.

    Another example of naturalistic observation is Jane Goodall’s study on the behavior of chimpanzees.

Leave a Reply