Disguised and Undisguised Observation Research30th January 2021
Disguised Observation is a technique employed, often in product testing, where a respondent or groups of respondents are unaware that they are being observed.
Participate observation is characterized as either undisguised or disguised. In undisguised observation, the observed individuals know that the observer is present for the purpose of collecting info about their behavior. This technique is often used to understand the culture and behavior of groups or individuals. In contrast, in disguised observation, the observed individuals do not know that they are being observed. This technique is often used when researchers believe that the individuals under observation may change their behavior as a result of knowing that they were being recorded.
For a great example of disguised research, see the Rosenhan experiment in which several researchers seek admission to twelve different mental hospitals to observe patient-staff interactions and patient diagnosing and releasing procedures. There are several benefits to doing participant observation. Firstly, participant research allows researchers to observe behaviors and situations that are not usually open to scientific observation. Furthermore, participant research allows the observer to have the same experiences as the people under study, which may provide important insights and understandings of individuals or groups.
However, there are also several drawbacks to doing participant observation. Firstly, participant observers may sometimes lose their objectivity as a result of participating in the study. This usually happens when observers begin to identify with the individuals under study, and this threat generally increases as the degree of observer participation increases. Secondly, participant observers may unduly influence the individuals whose behavior they are recording.
This effect is not easily assessed, however, it generally more prominent when the group being observed is small, or if the activities of the participant observer are prominent. Lastly, disguised observation raises some ethical issues regarding obtaining information without respondents’ knowledge.
For example, the observations collected by an observer participating in an internet chat room discussing how racists advocate racial violence may be seen as incriminating evidence collected without the respondents’ knowledge. The dilemma here is of course that if informed consent were obtained from participants, respondents would likely choose not to cooperate.
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