Illustrative Article: Observational Methods
Happiness, according to Aristotle, is the most desirable of all things. In the past few decade, many researchers have been studying predictors of happiness in an attempt to understand the construct.
Mehl, Vazire, Holleran, and Clark (2010) conducted a naturalistic observation on the topic of happiness using electronically activated recorders (a device that unobtrusively records snippets of sound at regular intervals, for a fixed amount of time). In this study, 79 undergraduates students wore the device for four days; 30- second recordings were made every 12.5 minutes. Each snippet was coded as having been taken while the participants was alone or with people. If the participant was with somebody, the recordings were also coded for “small talk” and “substantial talk.” Other measures administered were well- being and happiness.
First, acquire and read the article:
Mehl, M.R., Vazire, S., Holleran, S. E., & Clark, C.S. (2010). Eavesdropping on happiness: Well- being is related to having less small talk and more substantive conversations. Psychological Science, 21, 539-541.
Then, after reading the article, consider the following:
1. What is the research question for this study?
2. Is the basic approach in this study qualitative or quantitative?
3. Is this study an example of concealed or nonconcealed observation? What are the ethical issues present in the study?
4. Do you think that participants would be reactive to this data collection method?
5. How reliable were the coders? How did the authors assess their reliability?
6. How did the researchers operationally define small talk, substantive talk, well-being, and happiness? What do you think about the quality of these operations definitions?
7. Does this study suffer from the problem involving the direction of causation? How so?
8. Does this study suffer from the third- variable problem? How so?
9. Do you think that this study included any confounding variables? Provide examples.
10. Given the topic of this study, what other ways can you think of to conduct this study using an observational method?