Naturalistic Observation Essay involves recording subjects’ naturally occurring behavior while they are in their natural environment. This experiment revolves around this type of observation. Specifically, it involves the observation of the various human dyads (male-female, male-male, female-female,) social interaction, within in a public environment. Focal points of observation included conversation space (distance between individuals heads,), and body language.
All behaviors were observed in an unobtrusive manner.
The acceptable distance for a conversation between adults is greatly affected by the cultural background of the participants and the gender of those involved (Hall, 1966, Reidhead, Good, & Stopka, 1984; Sommer, 1969). Previous work has shown that, “observational studies in real life situations have found that individuals in Arab and Latin American countries, in general, stand significantly closer to one another during conversations than do Americans and Northern Europeans (e.g., Hall, 1966; Sanders, Hakky, & Brizzolara, 1985). Within the American culture, studies have shown that male-female dyads stand closest, female-female dyads are intermediate, and male-male dyads are most distant (e.g.
, Baxter, 1970; Sommer, 1962).
Based upon these former studies, observation was undergone in roughly the same manner, with a new hypothesis in mind. The hypothesis is that when engaged in conversation, male-female dyads make more of overt effort to appear interested in conversation. Since actual conversing was not overheard, and distance between individuals was virtually irrelevant, the significant variables in this study are measurements of specific types of body language, ones that connote interest, and attention.
Participants were a total of 30 separate dyads (10 male-female, 10 male-male, 10 female-female). All dyads were observed in public environments and as unobtrusively as possible.
All dyads were observed for a minimum of several minutes without interruption from another individual.
All observations were estimated and recorded by the observer.
All behavior was observed in such a manner that the individuals did not know they were being watched. All observation was also done in public so as not to violate the individuals’ privacy. The specific variables that were used as a measure of implied interest/attention in conversation, were frequencies of smiling, and eye contact throughout the course of the conversation. All variables were measured by estimation, in terms of relatively frequent, moderate, or low.
Results of the experiment overwhelmingly supported the hypothesis. Particularly in the measurements of smiling. Male-female dyads showed extraordinarily higher frequencies of smiling during conversation than the other dyads. Both same gender dyads showed relatively marginal to moderate frequencies for smiling. Eye contact frequencies were also higher for male-female dyads, though not as overwhelmingly as smiling. In contrast, both same gender dyads showed relatively low frequencies for eye contact.
Based upon the findings in this experiment, it would appear that male-female dyads do in fact make an attempt to appear overtly interested in the current conversation. This has at least one fairly obvious interpretation. Males and females want to appear interested in what the other has to say, in order to reciprocate attraction. Gazing into each other’s eyes is probably the most overt method of implying that one is paying attention to the other. Furthermore, frequent smiling does not only imply interest in conversation, but an agreeableness as well. It may also readily imply interest of any kind, which for the sakes of this study we shall say is good.
The results of the same gender dyads also support this hypothesis. Typically, members of the same sex do not want imply too much interest in each other too often, or risk feelings of awkwardness when in close conversation. Thus, they look away from each other more often, and smile less (especially since frequent smiling can have several interpretations, such as obvious sexual interest.)
Whether any of this behavior is either conscious or unconscious was not determined. It could possibly rely solely upon an individual’s awareness of how attracted they are to the other individual.
One possible source of error for this experiment could be sexual preference.
This study does not take into account for any type of homosexuality. However, it is reasonable to surmise that the same hypothesis will hold true for homosexual- same gender dyads.
1. Baxter, J.C. (1970).
Interpersonal spacing in natural settings. Sociometry, 33, 444-456
2. Hall, E.T. (1966). The Hidden Dimension.
Garden City: Doubleday.
3. Sanders, J.L., Hakky, U.M.
, & Brizzolara, .