Non-participant observation

Observational research must respect the privacy and psychological well being of the people being studied. In this study informed consent was not obtained, therefore the study was conducted in an acceptable circumstance where people could expect to be to be watched by strangers. All information was confidential and participants could not be identified by any of the results. There are two main types of observational studies, participant observation, and non-participant observation. Non-participant observation is used in this investigation.

Non-participant observation is when the observer only observes and records the behaviour of the group but doesn’t interact with them.

The participants used were selected by Opportunity sampling, as the researcher chose anyone who was in the target population and was available for a sufficient amount of time to be observed. The participants were observed until a sufficient amount of details were collected then the researcher would move on and observe the next person. A pilot study was firstly conducted so that the researcher could construct a behavioural category system.

This way the observation could be recorded onto a tally chart when the participant displayed a particular behaviour. Point sampling was the method used to collect the data. Point sampling is when participants are observed until enough data is gathered about his or her behaviour. The observer then moves onto the next person. Independent Variable (IV) The IV is the variable that the researcher manipulates and controls. In this investigation it was gender. Dependant Variable (DV) The DV is the variable that is measured when any change is made due to the IV.

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In this investigation the DV is the type of reinforcement males and females use to reinforce each other. These were smiling, tutting, verbal encouragement, nudging soft/aggressively and hugging. Extraneous Variables The study was performed in the same place so the confounding variable, situational variable, wouldn’t occur and affect the results. Participants A large group of people whom we are interested in measuring are called a target population. The target population in this investigation were college students aged 16 – 18 attending a sixth form college in west London.

The small group that were selected as representatives of the target population were selected by using the sampling method Opportunity Sampling, as the researcher chose anyone who was in the target population and was available for a sufficient amount of time to be observed. Twenty people were observed, ten of each gender. Apparatus and Materials Tally chart listing different types in reinforcement used by the target population. The chart was designed by firstly conducting a short preliminary observation to gather the different types of reinforcement used by the target population.

(See Appendix A) Procedure In this investigation the observer firstly selected a public place where she could carry out her observation. She was observing the way in which members of the same gender praised/criticised each other, either verbally, physically or both. She then selected an appropriate person who would be available for a long enough period of time, so enough information could be gathered on them. She then sat in a seat at an appropriate distance from the person being observed.

She used the apparatus (tally chart listing the different category systems) to define each type of reinforcement. The behaviours were recorded by using the method of point sampling. Point Sampling is when enough information is gathered on a person the researcher moves onto the next until all 20 participants are observed (10 male, 10 female). The mean in the results for females was higher with the verbal types of reinforcement than for males. The mean in the results for males were higher with the physical types of reinforcement than for females.

This means that the females used all three of the verbal types of reinforcement more frequently than the males. The males used two out of three of the physical types of reinforcement more than the females. The exception was hugging which females used 2. 5% more than the males. This was an anomalous result. The reason for this is believed to be because hugging is stereotyped as a female behaviour towards members of their own gender. Smiling has a difference of 0. 4 between the two genders, males being the highest. The modal result for both genders was smiling.

The hypothesis “Females will reinforce other females verbally whilst males will reinforce other males physically” was accepted and the null hypothesis “There is no relationship between gender and types of reinforcement” was therefore refuted. Discussion From the results obtained it can be seen that the hypothesis was supported “Females will reinforce other females verbally whilst males will reinforce other males physically” which means that on average the males used more physical types of reinforcement than the females.

This study is quite independent as it has more differences to the Fagot study than similarities. The similarities are major parts of the two studies in that they both contain reinforcement and the hypotheses are based on gender appropriate behaviour. The conclusions made in this study are similar to that of the results in the Fagot study, in that the way in which participants reinforced each other was dependant on their gender. The participants in this study may have been acting the way they believed to be appropriate for them to in an environment of same gender peers.

Also some of the participants in the area where the study was conducted may have the stereotypical view that males who act ‘feminine’ are not following the ‘group norm’. The observation was carried out at different times of the day and so some participants who were observed in the afternoon may have been less tolerant with a lot less energy. If this observation were carried out again then it would be more reliable if the target population had a wider variety of people so it could be easily generalised. Also the sample size could increase more accurate sampling methods used.

For example, quota sampling, when a sample selected contains specified groups in numbers, which is proportional to their size in the target population. A further study of reinforcement could move onto looking at the behaviour of genders when reinforcing members of the opposite sex and the response to being reinforced to a member of the opposite sex. The results could be compared to this study to see if there are differences in the ways males/females reinforce members of their own sex when compared to when they reinforce members of the opposite sex.

This observation could be carried out the same way as the original study but there would be a larger sample size for more reliability, and the observer would be looking for participants reinforcing members of the opposite gender. In this study the main ethical issue was that observational research must, at all times, respect the privacy and psychological well being of the participants so the researcher would have to make sure that the participant was always unaware of the observation and that all information about the participant would remain confidential.


The difference in the type of reinforcement used by the males and females may be because of how they developed and were taught how to act. The results clearly show the males had higher means for physical reinforcement, when the anomaly is exempt, than the females, and the females had higher means for verbal reinforcement than the males. So to conclude…

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Non-participant observation. (2018, Jan 20). Retrieved from

Non-participant observation
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