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Naturalistic Observation

Naturalistic observation is a technique used to collect behavioral data in real-life situations as opposed to laboratory or other controlled settings. This technique is most useful when little is known about the matter under consideration. Underlying the interpretation of data obtained through this procedure is the assumption that the investigator did not interfere with the natural order of the situation.

As an example of naturalistic observation, the study of parent-child interaction may involve videotaping the parent and child in their home either as they go about their daily routine or as they perform an activity given to them by the researcher. These videotaped interactions can then be taken back to the laboratory and analyzed using a variety of techniques in order to extract the desired information from them. This particular research technique has the advantage of making it easier for research participants to be involved in the study.


Bakeman, R., and J. M. Gottman. Observing Interaction: An Introduction to Sequential Analysis. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Ray, W. J., and R. Ravizza. Methods toward a Science of Behavior and Experience, 2nd edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1985.

E G Bishop

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