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Accuracy of social judgements of observers watching business meetings

Accuracy of social judgements of observers watching business meetings



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I'm very interested in how people size one another up in social situations and in particular what we key in on when we are making these judgements.


Let's make an imaginary experiment.

I make several video tapes of actual business meetings just prior to when they begin. I edit the videos so that all explicit characterizations of the people are cut out (e.g. you wouldn't here one person address another person as "sir" or "ma'am"). I also get several simultaneous camera angles on each meeting. So basically you're seeing the people freely interact.

Now, I want you as the subject to watch the videos and tell me what you think the people are like. Who's the leader? Who is smart? Who is ineffective? Who is conniving? Etc.

Next, I ask you why you made each of these judgements, and I attempt to elicit very explicit rationale - such as "people who slump in their seats seem ineffective to me" or "people who hold their chins higher seem like leaders to me".


Can anyone point me to discussions of real experiments similar to this?

In particular I'm interested in

  • How accurate humans tend to be in quickly "sizing up" people.
  • How aware people are of why they are making these judgements and aware of what they are cueing in on.
  • What is it that they are actually cueing in on?

I'm more interested in all types of social appraisals, (intelligence, wealth, honesty, etc.), but I'm most interested in appraisals of leadership qualities.


You may be interested in the research on "thin slices" of behavior, defined as a very short video clip of behavior, often without audio.

Abstract from Ambady & Rosenthal (1992):

A meta-analysis was conducted on the accuracy of predictions of various objective outcomes in the areas of clinical and social psychology from short observations of expressive behavior (under 5 min). The overall effect size for the accuracy of predictions for 38 different results was .39. Studies using longer periods of behavioral observation did not yield greater predictive accuracy; predictions based on observations under 0.5 min in length did not differ significantly from predictions based on 4- and 5-min observations. The type of behavioral channel (such as the face, speech, the body, tone of voice) on which the ratings were based was not related to the accuracy of predictions. Accuracy did not vary significantly between behaviors manipulated in a laboratory and more naturally occurring behavior. Last, effect sizes did not differ significantly for predictions in the areas of clinical psychology, social psychology, and the accuracy of detecting deception.

This methodology has been used frequently since this publication. I do not know the literature well enough to cite specifics, but perhaps this will point you in the right direction.

Ambady, N., & Rosenthal, R. (1992). Thin slices of expressive behavior as predictors of interpersonal consequences: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin; Psychological Bulletin, 111(2), 256. PDF


Types of Observation in User Research

Observing human behavior is an important element of most user-research methods.

Usability Testing

Usability testing involves both observing and listening to participants as they attempt to complete tasks with a user interface. Participants may think aloud, and you can ask questions to better understand what they’re thinking and doing, but the primary value is in observing their actions.

Contextual Inquiry

Contextual inquiry means observing people in their natural environment, as they demonstrate their typical tasks. Research participants lead their own session, explaining what they are doing, but the primary value is in observing the details of the ways they normally perform their tasks.

Naturalistic Observation

In naturalistic observation, the researcher attempts to observe one or more people unobtrusively, without interacting with them. The goal is to observe participants’ natural behavior, without interrupting them or affecting their behavior.

Shadowing

In shadowing, the researcher follows participants around as they perform their daily activities. The researcher may simply observe, without interacting with the participant, or a session may be more interactive, with participants talking about what they are doing and the researcher asking questions, similar to a contextual inquiry. The goal and primary value of this technique is to observe people’s natural activities.

Covert Observation

Covert observation is similar to naturalistic observation, but the researcher observes people without their knowing that they are being observed. Of course, you can ethically observe people covertly only in public places, where there is no expectation of privacy. For example, you might observe what people do in an airport. The advantage of covert observation is that it eliminates any effects your presence might have on a participant’s behavior. To learn more about this method, see my column, “Becoming a Spy: Covert Naturalistic Observation.”

Participant Observation

Participant observation is a traditional ethnographic method in which the researcher joins a group and participates in their activities. The researcher observes and interacts with group members while performing the same activities. For example, a researcher might become a call-center operator for a few days, with the goal of better understanding such operators’ work and experiences. For more information about this method, see my previous column, “Participatory Observation.”


​Example Answer for Question 21 Paper 2: A Level Psychology, June 2017 (AQA)

For this observation, I would conduct a covert, naturalistic, non-participant and structured observation. The observation would be covert, and I would pose as a gym member or member of staff so that my observations do not affect the behaviour of the gym users. This would ensure that the behaviour I am observing is natural and that observer bias is minimised. Furthermore, there are no ethical issues with conducting a covert observation in the main gym because the behaviour in question is taking place in a public setting. The observation would therefore take place in a naturalistic (gym) setting and naturalistic observations tend to have higher external validity as the behaviour is being examined in the environment where it naturally occurs. I would not interact or engage with the people I am observing (non-participant) as this will improve my objectivity because I am remaining distant from the participants. Most importantly, I would conduct a structured observation as I would create a list of behavioural categories that I would use to observe gym behaviour.

Operationalised Behavioural Categories

I would include a range of behavioural categories based on the different pieces of equipment in the gym, including Treadmill – Walking/Jogging/Running Bike – Cycling Lifting Weights – Arms (biceps/triceps) Lifting Weights – Chest Lifting Weights – Shoulders Lifting Weights – Legs, etc. I would also include a category for resting (either standing or seated). I will collect this data using a tally sheet, as shown below, and the number of people engaging in each activity will be recorded every five minutes.

Use of Time/Event Sampling

For this observation, I would use time sampling where I would record the behaviour of everyone in the gym every five minutes. This would allow me to record (using a tally sheet) what different gym users are doing every five minutes and allow me to see whether people move onto different types of exercise at pre-determined intervals. Time sampling would be appropriate as it would allow us to gain a snapshot of activity at pre-determined time intervals. Event sampling would be difficult as you would be required to record every time a person moves from one piece of equipment to another, and this might be difficult to track.

Assessing Reliability

I will establish the reliability of the data by using two observers, to check for inter-observer reliability. I will operationalise the behavioural categories clearly and train the observers in how to use the tally sheet to record behaviour. Then I will get them both to observe the same gym for one hour and use a correlation test to determine how similar their scores were for each behaviour. If I found a correlation coefficient of .80 or more then I will know that there was a high level of reliability.

Please Note:These answers have been produced without the knowledge of the mark scheme and merely reflect my attempt at producing a model answer on the day of the exam.


What Are Objective Observations?

Objective observations are observations that involve watching others in an unbiased manner and without attaching stereotypes. Objective observations involve studying and watching individuals to see their behaviors and actions in various situations, without attaching labels and stereotypes to those people. Objective observations are made by people every day, such as parents watching their children.

The primary purpose of objective observations is to study the behaviors and interactions of others without considering intrinsic motives of behaviors, such as gender and race. Objective observers strive to eliminate bias from their observations. Bias is a preconceived notion or belief about individuals or groups based on race, culture, religious affiliation and socioeconomic status. Holding stereotypes against others prevents true objective observation as it injects personal opinions and views into the situation or scene being observed. Another primary goal of objective observation is to avoid attaching negative labels to individuals. Negative labeling involves attaching certain moods and behaviors to others. A parent, for instance, might consider a child to be "moody," "naughty" or "nice." Placing a label on the child influences parents’ perceptions of their children, and reduces their likelihood of being able to make observations without assuming children are behaving because of certain personal characteristics.


Model Answer for Question 11 Paper 2: AS Psychology, June 2016 (AQA)

11 A researcher wanted to compare the effectiveness of two therapies for young offenders who had been identified as having anger management issues. Offenders, who were all sentences to two years in a Young Offenders’ Institution, were asked to volunteer to take part in an anger management programme. Fifty volunteers were randomly allocated to Group 1 (Therapy A) or Group 2 (Therapy B).

Each participant’s anger was assessed before and after therapy. For the pre-therapy anger score they completed an Anger Scale questionnaire and their responses were scores. A high score indicated extreme anger and a low score indicated mild anger.

For the next eight weeks, participants attended weekly sessions for Therapy A or Therapy B.

For the post-therapy anger score, at the end of the treatment period, participants completed the same Anger Scale questionnaire.

The data obtained are shown in Figure 1 below.

11.1 The researcher used volunteers for this study. Outline one disadvantage of using volunteers to take part in this study. [2 marks]

Suggested Answer: One problem with volunteer sampling is that the sample might be biased. In this study, it could be that only the eager Young Offenders would be willing to volunteer. This matters because it means that the sample is not representative of all offenders and reduces the generalisability of the findings.

Exam Hint:While this is only a two-mark question, many students failed to apply their knowledge to the scenario. Students need to ensure that for RM question that say ‘in this study’ that they are applying their knowledge to this specific scenario (e.g. young offenders).

11.2 Explain how the researcher could allocate the volunteers randomly to the conditions of the experiment. [3 marks]

Suggested Answer: All of the participants could be assigned a number, and the numbers could then be placed in a hat/envelope. The researcher would then pull each number out of the hat, assigning the first number to Group 1 (Therapy A), the second to Group 2 (Therapy B) and so on. Therefore, each of the participants has the same chance of being allocated to either Therapy A or B.

Exam Hint:Students need to pay careful attention to the number of marks available. Many answers did not go beyond statements like ‘place the names in a hat’ which is not going to secure full marks. Students need to be able to accurately describe what they would do from start to finish when randomly allocating volunteers to different conditions within an experiment (as detailed above).

11.3 Write a suitable hypothesis for this study. [3 marks]

Suggested Answer: Either Non-directional: There will be a difference in the reduction of post-therapy anger scores between participants who received Therapy A and those who received Therapy B.

OR Directional: People who received Therapy A will have a significantly larger reduction in anger level scores in comparison to people who received Therapy B.

Exam Hint:Many students failed to achieve full marks because they failed to determined what the DV was (the reduction in anger scores). It is important for any hypothesis question that student includes both conditions of the IV and a fully operationalised DV.

11.4 What do the data in Figure 1 seem to suggest. [3 marks]

Suggested Answer: The results suggest that both Therapy A and Therapy B reduce anger and are therefore effective treatments overall.

However, Therapy B is slightly more effective as the reduction in anger score was larger (a decrease of 25 in comparison to 20).

Finally, the results also reveal that the offenders in Group 1 were more angry at the start of the study in comparison to Group 2.

Exam Hint:A common issue with data interpretation question is that students do not write enough. The graph provided at least five different points that students could use and one mark was awarded for each point stated.

11.5 Explain how the study might be improved by using a matched pairs design. [4 marks]

Suggested Answer: Using a matched-pairs design would improve this study as it would reduce individual/participant differences. In an independent groups design, it could be participant variables that reduce the post-therapy scores in Group 2 and not the therapy itself. If the participants were matched on their anger scores pre-therapy, this would reduce this possibility. In the original experiment, there was a ten-point difference between Group 1 and 2 in their pre-anger scores and a matched pairs design would reduce/eliminate this difference.

Exam Hint:Many students explained what is meant by a matched pairs design and how you could use one. However, many students failed to acknowledge the most important aspect of the question: how it would ‘improve’ this experiment. The most important matching criteria for this experiment was the pre-therapy anger scores, as the original graph clearly showed a ten-point difference in these scores. Sadly, many students missed this point which meant their attempts to describe matched pairs were generic and not contextualised.

11.6 Outline one ethical issue that might have occurred in this study and explain how the researcher could have dealt with this issue. [4 marks]

Suggested Answer: One ethical issue that might have occurred in this study is protection from (psychological) harm, as the Young Offenders might feel anxious, especially if they find out they have a high anger score. Furthermore, the participants might feel pressure to improve, as there is an expectation associated with receiving therapy.

This could be dealt with by giving the participants the right to withdraw from the therapy and debriefing the participants, offering them follow-up care, if required. They could also be provided with a chance to ask any questions about the study.

Exam Hint:This question has two parts: 1) identifying an ethical issue 2) dealing with the issue however, the number of students who failed to acknowledge of complete the second part demonstrates the importance of keeping the whole question in mind.

11.7 Give one disadvantage of using median values as seen in Figure 1 to represent the anger scores of participants. [1 mark]

Suggested Answer: One disadvantage of the median is that is does not consider the entire data set, and therefore it does not represent the whole data.

Exam Hint:Students need to be careful of their expression. For example: ‘saying that the median doesn’t use all the data’ is vague, and students need to explain why this is an issue.

11.8 Explain how demand characteristics might have occurred in this study. [2 marks]

Suggested Answer: Participants may have figured out that the aim and adjusted their behaviour and given answers on the questionnaire that increased or decreased their score, depending on whether they wanted to please the researcher. Demand characteristics are likely to occur in this experiment as the researchers gave the participants the question before and after the treatment and therefore participants might realise that they should be giving different answers on the second occasion.

Exam Hint:Students need to ensure that they contextualise their answers. This question says ‘in this study’ and therefore the answer needs to be written within the context of offender behaviour.

11.9 The researchers used a questionnaire to assess the anger scores of the offenders. Briefly discuss one strength of using questionnaires in research. [2 marks]

Suggested Answer: One strength of using a questionnaire is that a large quantity of data can be collected relatively quickly in comparison to other methods (e.g. interviews). For example, questionnaires often used closed questions which produced quantitative data. This is a strength because it makes data analyse and replication easier in comparison to other methods.

Exam Hint:Student often struggle to develop RM evaluation points and they need to ensure that they state a point, provide an example and then explain why this matters.


The Power of a First Impression

New research suggests that first impressions are so powerful that they are more important than fact.

A new study found that even when told whether a person was gay or straight, people identified a person&rsquos sexual orientation based on how they looked &mdash even if it contradicted the facts presented to them.

&ldquoWe judge books by their covers, and we can&rsquot help but do it,&rdquo said Nicholas Rule, Ph.D., of the University of Toronto. &ldquoWith effort, we can overcome this to some extent, but we are continually tasked with needing to correct ourselves.&rdquo

&ldquoFurthermore, the less time we have to make our judgments, the more likely we are to go with our gut, even over fact,&rdquo he added.

&ldquoAs soon as one sees another person, an impression is formed,&rdquo Rule said. &ldquoThis happens so quickly &mdash just a small fraction of a second &mdash that what we see can sometimes dominate what we know.&rdquo

A series of recent studies, presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual conference in Austin, Texas, shows that appearance affects everything from whether we end up liking someone to our assessment of their sexual orientation or trustworthiness.

Researchers also note that a first impression formed online &mdash say from a Facebook photo &mdash is often more negative than a first impression formed face to face.

Study on Sexual Orientation and Trustworthiness

In a study on first impressions of sexual orientation, Rule and his colleagues showed 100 people photos of 20 men, identifying them either as gay or straight. The researchers then tested the participants&rsquo recall of the men&rsquos sexual orientations several times to ensure perfect memorization.

After this learning phase, the researchers then showed the participants the faces again, varying the amount of time they had to categorize the men&rsquos sexual orientations.

The researchers found that the less time the participants had to categorize the faces, the more likely they were to categorize the men according to whether they looked gay or straight, rather than what they had been told about their sexuality. With more time, however, the participants reverted to what they had learned about the men&rsquos sexuality.

&ldquoThey seemed to judge by appearance when they were forced to make their judgments quickly,&rdquo Rule said. &ldquoWhen they were allowed more time, though, they judged according to what they knew about the individuals.&rdquo

The researchers noted that they labeled half the faces with their actual sexual orientation and half with their opposite orientation. They did this to &ldquoteach the participants to learn information that was opposite to their perceptions,&rdquo Rule said.

&ldquoIt was important for us to establish a conflict between perception &mdash how the face looked &mdash and memory &mdash what they knew about the man&rsquos sexual orientation,&rdquo he said.

Rule points to the singer Ricky Martin, who for years denied he was gay before finally coming out.

&ldquoIn the 1990s, people might see Martin and think &lsquooh, that&rsquos a gay guy,&rsquo but then you&rsquod recognize that it was Ricky Martin and think &lsquooh, wait, that&rsquos Ricky Martin &mdash he told Barbara Walters that he was straight.&rsquo So there&rsquos a corrective process there: First impressions continue to assert themselves long after you know relevant information about a person,&rdquo he said.

Rule presented another study at the conference, which looked at how people categorized faces as trustworthy or not. In this study, facial appearance was a stronger predictor of whether people viewed someone as trustworthy than descriptive information provided, again, even if it conflicted.

&ldquoTogether, these studies help to illustrate the often inescapable nature of how we form impressions of other people based on their appearance,&rdquo Rule said.

&ldquoNot only should people not assume that others will be able to overcome aspects of their appearance when evaluating them, but also those of us on the other end should be actively working to consider that our impressions of others are biased.&rdquo

First Impressions in Person versus Online

Other research presented at the conference looked at the differences in how we form impressions in person versus online, through a video or by just watching people.

&ldquoIf you want to make a good impression, it is critical that it is done in person,&rdquo said Jeremy Biesanz, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia, who conducted three studies comparing the accuracy and bias of first impressions when formed under different circumstances.

The first study analyzed a series of experiments involving more than 1,000 participants who met each other through either a three-minute speed-dating style interview, or by watching a video of the person.

&ldquoWhat we observe here is that the accuracy of impressions is the same when you meet someone face to face or simply watch a video of them,&rdquo Biesanz said. &ldquoHowever, impressions are much more negative when you form impressions more passively through watching videotapes.&rdquo

While people could accurately attribute certain personality traits, such as extroverted, arrogant, or sociable, to others in person or by video, the magnitude of the positive attributes was lower via video, while the negatives attributes were higher.

The researchers found similar results in two other studies, including one that compared in-person impressions to those obtained through looking at Facebook photos. The other study compared in-person meetings to simply watching someone as a passive observer. In all cases, the passive means of making impressions were as accurate as the active ones, according to the researchers.

&ldquoHowever, there is an extremely large difference in the positivity of impressions,&rdquo he said. &ldquoMore passive impressions are substantially more negative.&rdquo

First Impressions of a Romantic Partner

How we create first impressions is also important when looking for a romantic partner. And new research in this field suggests that whether you meet someone online or in person dramatically changes the judging process.

&ldquoPeople are more likely to use abstract information to make their evaluations in hypothetical than in live impression formation contexts,&rdquo said Paul Eastwick, Ph.D., of the University of Texas, Austin, who presented results of his studies on gender differences in different romantic contexts at the conference.

What he found was that when men and women evaluate potential partners in person versus online, typical &ldquoideal&rdquo gender preferences disappear.

For example, men generally say they care about attractiveness in a partner more than women, while women say they care about earning prospects in a partner more than men.

&ldquoBut our meta-analysis reveals that men and women do not show these sex differences when they evaluate others in a face-to-face context,&rdquo Eastwick said. &ldquoThat is, attractiveness inspires men&rsquos and women&rsquos romantic evaluations to the same extent, and earning prospects inspires men&rsquos and women&rsquos romantic evaluations to the same extent.&rdquo

The research suggests that in face-to-face settings, people rely more on their gut-level evaluations of another person, according to the researcher.

&ldquoThey focus on how that person makes them feel,&rdquo Eastwick said. &ldquoIt is very hard to get a sense of this information when simply viewing a profile. This disconnect can cause confusion and distress in the online dating realm, as potential partners that seem terrific &lsquoon paper&rsquo prove to be disappointing after a face-to-face interaction.&rdquo

Photographs Predict Judgement

In another study, psychological researchers Drs. Vivian Zayas of Cornell University and Gül Günaydin of Middle East Technical University found that viewing a photograph can be a good predictor of how you will judge someone in person.

&ldquoDespite the well-known idiom to &lsquonot judge a book by its cover,&rsquo the present research shows that such judgments about the cover are good proxies for judgments about the book &mdash even after reading it,&rdquo said Zayas.

Her new research shows that initial impressions based on viewing a single photograph accurately predict how a person will feel about the other person in a live interaction that takes place more than a month later.

&ldquoMoreover, participants&rsquo initial judgments based on the photograph colored personality judgments following the interaction,&rdquo Zayas said. &ldquoThe results showed that initial liking judgments based on a photograph remained unchanged even after obtaining more information about a person via an actual live interaction.&rdquo


Understanding Perception

Any new person you encounter—a potential boss, a prospective client, a new colleague—is likely to evaluate you in two phases. In phase one, the person makes an initial assessment of you quickly and without conscious thought, relying on a variety of heuristics, stereotypes, and other assumptions—using cues like your physical appearance, your organizational role, and your body language to fill in the blanks. This is less out of laziness (though there is some of that) than out of necessity. In a brief first meeting, the perceiver has too much to notice, understand, and act on to give you undivided, unbiased attention. In phase two—if there is a phase two—the perceiver has to work a lot harder, paying closer attention, gathering disparate data, and making sense of it to draw informed, thoughtful conclusions about you. It takes serious mental effort to weigh all the possible factors influencing your behavior and to reconsider the snap judgments made in phase one. So the perceiver needs to be motivated to do it and not too distracted.

In both phases, but particularly the first, the people forming an impression of you aren’t simply passive observers. They have, without necessarily realizing it, particular questions they are trying to answer about you. It’s as if they are looking through a distinct lens, or set of lenses, that shapes their view of you. The most powerful of these are the trust, power, and ego lenses. (Additional lenses, driven by personality, might also be present, but they’re typically less important.)

Other Lenses of Perception

Although the trust, power, and ego lenses are the ones that people use most often to form judgments about others, two sets of lenses specific to personality type can also come into play.

Promotion/Prevention

Does your perceiver tend to embrace risk or steer clear of it? Those with a promotion lens want to maximize gains and avoid missed opportunities, while those with a prevention lens try to minimize losses and maintain the status quo.

Advice:

Identify the lens of your perceiver and speak the appropriate motivational language.

Anxious/Avoidant

Does your perceiver have attachment issues? About half of U.S. adults have trouble relating to others. Some people display anxious behavior: They are needy, too accommodating, and sensitive to rejection. Others practice avoidance: They are aloof and struggle to connect.

Advice:

If an anxious or avoidant lens is present, be empathetic, patient, and reliable.

The trust lens is employed when people want to figure out if you are friend or foe. Perceivers answer that question by tuning in to two particular aspects of your character: your warmth (your expression of friendliness, respect, and empathy), which suggests that you have good intentions, and your competence (evidence that you are intelligent, skilled, and effective), which shows that you can act on your intentions.

The power lens comes into play when there is a disparity of power, especially when the perceiver has more than you do. He or she gazes through this lens to assess your instrumentality: “Prove yourself useful to me, or get out of my way.”

The ego lens gives the perceiver a sense of who’s on top. Subconsciously, people often want confirmation that they, or their group, are superior to other individuals or groups.

Turning back to Gordon, there are several ways in which Bob’s lenses no doubt influenced the outcome of the lunch interview. Gordon readily displayed his competence by reviewing his track record, but he failed to show warmth—indeed, the misunderstanding that led him to sample Bob’s food ended up conveying a lack of respect. Competence without warmth is a terrible combination, because it suggests that you may one day be a potent foe. Also, in focusing solely on his own accomplishments while talking with someone more powerful, Gordon failed to emphasize his instrumentality. If he had better explained how his previous experience would help him to further Bob’s goals at the university, it might have been a whole different ball game. As it was, looking through his trust, power, and ego lenses, Bob probably thought, Why hire an accomplished outsider who might work against me and make me look bad?


How aggressive you are

A small 2009 Canadian experiment with undergraduate women found that, on average, they were able to accurately assess how aggressive 37 different men were after looking at a photograph of their faces for 39 milliseconds.

The researchers measured aggression by having the men pictured play a computer game in which they had the option to steal points from another player.

Researchers also found a connection between men with larger facial width-to-height ratios (regardless of their expressions) and perceived aggression levels, and reasoned that it could be because angry expressions involve lowering the brow and raising the upper lip, which increases this ratio.


Islamic Religiosity and Auditors’ Judgements: Evidence from Pakistan

We extend the literature by providing evidence that a cultural variable, intrinsic Islamic religiosity is important in understanding auditors’ judgement in the Islamic context of Pakistan. The intrinsic Islamic religiosity theoretical construct examined is Islamic Worldview (IW) which represents deeply held enduring and stable values which are likely to be dominant in influencing professionals’ judgements. Moreover, theoretical underpinning and empirical evidence in social psychology and organisational behaviour have established the critical role of intrinsic religiosity in influencing behaviour. Our first objective is to examine whether IW impacts auditors’ judgements in the context of their acceptance of uncorroborated low-reliability client-provided evidence. Understanding the potential impact of cultural factors on auditors’ acceptance of client-provided information is an essential factor in improving audit quality. Our findings support the hypothesis that auditors with high (low) IW scores are more (less) likely to accept uncorroborated low-reliability client-provided evidence. Our second objective is to examine the relationship between IW and auditors’ preference for exercising more or less judgements. Examining this topic is important because auditing is a judgement-based process: auditors’ judgements determine audit quality and, by extension, the quality of associated financial reports. Our findings provide overall support for the hypothesis that auditors with high (low) IW scores have a preference for exercising more (less) judgement. Our findings have implications for global and national standard setters, regulators, practitioners, and researchers. The results are also relevant to global audit firms and their affiliates, particularly networks operating in Islamic countries, in ensuring global consistency of audits.

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Observational Field Research

This web page is designed as an introduction to the basic issues and design options in observational research within natural settings. Observational research techniques solely involve the researcher or researchers making observations. There are many positive aspects of the observational research approach. Namely, observations are usually flexible and do not necessarily need to be structured around a hypothesis (remember a hypothesis is a statement about what you expect to observe). For instance, before undertaking more structured research a researcher may conduct observations in order to form a research question. This is called descriptive research. In terms of validity, observational research findings are considered to be strong. Trochim states that validity is the best available approximation to the truth of a given proposition, inference, or conclusion. Observational research findings are considered strong in validity because the researcher is able to collect a depth of information about a particular behavior. However, there are negative aspects. There are problems with reliability and generalizability. Reliability refers the extent that observations can be replicated. Seeing behaviors occur over and over again may be a time consuming task. Generalizability, or external validity, is described by Trochim as the extent that the study's findings would also be true for other people, in other places, and at other times. In observational research, findings may only reflect a unique population and therefore cannot be generalized to others. There are also problems with researcher bias. Often it is assumed that the researcher may "see what they want to see." Bias, however, can often be overcome with training or electronically recording observations. Hence, overall, observations are a valuable tool for researchers.

First this Web Page will discuss the appropriate situations to use observational field research. Second, the various types of observations research methods are explained. Finally, observational variables are discussed. This page's emphasis is on the collection rather the analysis of data.

After reading this web page, you should be able to

  1. Understand the advantages and disadvantages of observational research compared to other research methods.
  2. Understand the strengths and weaknesses in the validity of observational research findings.
  3. Know what Direct Observation is and some of the main concerns of using this method.
  4. Know what Continuos Monitoring is and what types of research it is appropriate for.
  5. Understand Time Allocation research and why you would want to use it.
  6. Know why unobtrusive research is a sticky proposition.
  7. Understand the validity issues when discussing unobtrusive observation.
  8. Know what to do in a behavior trace study.
  9. Consider when to conduct a disguised field experiment.
  10. Know the observational variables.

Should you or shouldn't you collect your data through observation?

Questions to consider:

Types of Observations

    Direct (Reactive) Observation
    In direct observations, people know that you are watching them. The only danger is that they are reacting to you. As stated earlier, there is a concern that individuals will change their actions rather than showing you what they're REALLY like. This is not necessarily bad, however. For example, the contrived behavior may reveal aspects of social desirability, how they feel about sharing their feelings in front of others, or privacy in a relationship. Even the most contrived behavior is difficult to maintain over time. A long term observational study will often catch a glimpse of the natural behavior. Other problems concern the generalizability of findings. The sample of individuals may not be representative of the population or the behaviors observed are not representative of the individual (you caught the person on a bad day). Again, long-term observational studies will often overcome the problem of external validity. What about ethical problems you say? Ethically, people see you, they know you are watching them (sounds spooky, I know) and they can ask you to stop.

Now here are two commonly used types of direct observations:

  1. Continuous Monitoring:
    Continuos monitoring (CM) involves observing a subject or subjects and recording (either manually, electronically, or both) as much of their behavior as possible. Continuos Monitoring is often used in organizational settings, such as evaluating performance. Yet this may be problematic due to the Hawthorne Effect. The Hawthorne Effect states that workers react to the attention they are getting from the researchers and in turn, productivity increases. Observers should be aware of this reaction. Other CM research is used in education, such as watching teacher-student interactions. Also in nutrition where researchers record how much an individual eats. CM is relatively easy but a time consuming endeavor. You will be sure to acquire a lot of data.
  2. Time Allocation:
    Time Allocation (TA) involves a researcher randomly selecting a place and time and then recording what people are doing when they are first seen and before they see you. This may sound rather bizarre but it is a useful tool when you want to find out the percent of time people are doing things (i.e. playing with their kids, working, eating, etc.). Thereare several sampling problems with this approach. First, in order to make generalizations about how people are spending their time the researcher needs a large representative sample. Sneaking up on people all over town is tough way to spend your days. In addition, questions such as when, how often, and where should you observe are often a concern. Many researchers have overcome these problems by using nonrandom locations but randomly visiting them at different times.

    Unobtrusive Observation:
    Unobtrusive measures involves any method for studying behavior where individuals do NOT know they are being observed (don't you hate to think that this could have happened to you!). Here, there is not the concern that the observer may change the subject's behavior. When conducting unobtrusive observations, issues of validity need to be considered. Numerous observations of a representative sample need to take place in order to generalize the findings. This is especially difficult when looking at a particular group. Many groups posses unique characteristics which make them interesting studies. Hence, often such findings are not strong in external validity. Also, replication is difficult when using non-conventional measures (non-conventional meaning unobtrusive observation). Observations of a very specific behaviors are difficult to replicate in studies especially if the researcher is a group participant (we'll talk more about this later). The main problem with unobtrusive measures, however, is ethical. Issues involving informed consent and invasion of privacy are paramount here. An institutional review board may frown upon your study if it is not really necessary for you not to inform your subjects.

Here is a description of two types of unobtrusive research measures you may decide to undertake in the field:

  1. Behavior Trace studies:
    Behavior trace studies involve findings things people leave behind and interpreting what they mean. This can be anything to vandalism to garbage. The University of Arizona Garbage Project one of the most well-known trace studies. Anthropologists and students dug through household garbage to find out about such things as food preferences, waste behavior, and alcohol consumption. Again, remember, that in unobtrusive research individuals do not know they are being studied. How would you feel about someone going through your garbage? Surprisingly Tucson residents supported the research as long as their identities were kept confidential. As you might imagine, trace studies may yield enormous data.
  2. Disguised Field Observations:
    Okay, this gets a little sticky. In Disguised field analysis the researcher pretends to join or actually is a member of a group and records data about that group. The group does not know they are being observed for research purposes. Here, the observer may take on a number of roles. First, the observer may decide to become a complete-participant in which they are studying something they are already a member of. For instance, if you are a member of a sorority and study female conflict within sororities you would be considered a complete-participant observer. On the other hand you may decide to only participate casually in the group while collecting observations. In this case, any contact with group members is by acquaintance only. Here you would be considered an observer-participant. Finally, if you develop an identity with the group members but do not engage in important group activities consider yourself a participant-observer. An example would be joining a cult but not participating in any of their important rituals (such as sacraficing animals). You are however, considered a member of the cult and trusted by all of the members. Ethically, participant-observers have the most problems. Certainly there are degrees of deception at work. The sensitivity of the topic and the degree of confidentiality are important issues to consider. Watching classmates struggle with test-anxiety is a lot different than joining Alcoholics Anonymous. In all, disguised field experiments are likely to yield reliable data but the ethical dilemmas are a trade-off.

Federal Register (1991). Federal policy for the protection of human subjects notices and rules, part II. Federal register, 56, 28001-28032.

Observational Variables

Before you start on a research project make sure you how you are going to interpret your observations.

  1. Descriptive:
    Descriptive observational variables require no inference making on the part of the researcher. You see something and write it down.
  2. Inferential:
    Inferential observational variables require the researcher to make inferences about what is observed and the underlying emotion. For example, you may observe a girl banging on her keyboard. From this observation you may assume (correctly) that she is frustrated with the computer.
  3. Evaluative:
    Evaluative observational variables require the researcher to make an inference and a judgment from the behavior. For example, you may question whether computers and humans have a positive relationship. "Positive" is an evaluative judgment. You observe the girl banging on her keyboard and conclude that humans and computers do not have a positive relationship (you know you must replicate these findings!).

Okay, so this is a lot to remember. Go back up to the check-list of "things you should be able to. " and ask yourself some questions. Remember, observations are a great way to start and add to a research project.

Good luck observing!

Bernard, R. (1994). Research methods in anthropology. (2nd ed.) Chapters 14-15. California: AltaMira.

Gall, M., Borg., & Gall, J. (1996). Educational research. (6th ed.). Chapter 9. New York: Longman.

Montgomery, B. & Duck, S. (1991). Studying interpersonal interaction. Chapter 11. New York: Guilford.

And HIGHLY RECOMMENDED is Trochim's Knowledge Base which is packed with information about validity and research design.


How aggressive you are

A small 2009 Canadian experiment with undergraduate women found that, on average, they were able to accurately assess how aggressive 37 different men were after looking at a photograph of their faces for 39 milliseconds.

The researchers measured aggression by having the men pictured play a computer game in which they had the option to steal points from another player.

Researchers also found a connection between men with larger facial width-to-height ratios (regardless of their expressions) and perceived aggression levels, and reasoned that it could be because angry expressions involve lowering the brow and raising the upper lip, which increases this ratio.


Observational Field Research

This web page is designed as an introduction to the basic issues and design options in observational research within natural settings. Observational research techniques solely involve the researcher or researchers making observations. There are many positive aspects of the observational research approach. Namely, observations are usually flexible and do not necessarily need to be structured around a hypothesis (remember a hypothesis is a statement about what you expect to observe). For instance, before undertaking more structured research a researcher may conduct observations in order to form a research question. This is called descriptive research. In terms of validity, observational research findings are considered to be strong. Trochim states that validity is the best available approximation to the truth of a given proposition, inference, or conclusion. Observational research findings are considered strong in validity because the researcher is able to collect a depth of information about a particular behavior. However, there are negative aspects. There are problems with reliability and generalizability. Reliability refers the extent that observations can be replicated. Seeing behaviors occur over and over again may be a time consuming task. Generalizability, or external validity, is described by Trochim as the extent that the study's findings would also be true for other people, in other places, and at other times. In observational research, findings may only reflect a unique population and therefore cannot be generalized to others. There are also problems with researcher bias. Often it is assumed that the researcher may "see what they want to see." Bias, however, can often be overcome with training or electronically recording observations. Hence, overall, observations are a valuable tool for researchers.

First this Web Page will discuss the appropriate situations to use observational field research. Second, the various types of observations research methods are explained. Finally, observational variables are discussed. This page's emphasis is on the collection rather the analysis of data.

After reading this web page, you should be able to

  1. Understand the advantages and disadvantages of observational research compared to other research methods.
  2. Understand the strengths and weaknesses in the validity of observational research findings.
  3. Know what Direct Observation is and some of the main concerns of using this method.
  4. Know what Continuos Monitoring is and what types of research it is appropriate for.
  5. Understand Time Allocation research and why you would want to use it.
  6. Know why unobtrusive research is a sticky proposition.
  7. Understand the validity issues when discussing unobtrusive observation.
  8. Know what to do in a behavior trace study.
  9. Consider when to conduct a disguised field experiment.
  10. Know the observational variables.

Should you or shouldn't you collect your data through observation?

Questions to consider:

Types of Observations

    Direct (Reactive) Observation
    In direct observations, people know that you are watching them. The only danger is that they are reacting to you. As stated earlier, there is a concern that individuals will change their actions rather than showing you what they're REALLY like. This is not necessarily bad, however. For example, the contrived behavior may reveal aspects of social desirability, how they feel about sharing their feelings in front of others, or privacy in a relationship. Even the most contrived behavior is difficult to maintain over time. A long term observational study will often catch a glimpse of the natural behavior. Other problems concern the generalizability of findings. The sample of individuals may not be representative of the population or the behaviors observed are not representative of the individual (you caught the person on a bad day). Again, long-term observational studies will often overcome the problem of external validity. What about ethical problems you say? Ethically, people see you, they know you are watching them (sounds spooky, I know) and they can ask you to stop.

Now here are two commonly used types of direct observations:

  1. Continuous Monitoring:
    Continuos monitoring (CM) involves observing a subject or subjects and recording (either manually, electronically, or both) as much of their behavior as possible. Continuos Monitoring is often used in organizational settings, such as evaluating performance. Yet this may be problematic due to the Hawthorne Effect. The Hawthorne Effect states that workers react to the attention they are getting from the researchers and in turn, productivity increases. Observers should be aware of this reaction. Other CM research is used in education, such as watching teacher-student interactions. Also in nutrition where researchers record how much an individual eats. CM is relatively easy but a time consuming endeavor. You will be sure to acquire a lot of data.
  2. Time Allocation:
    Time Allocation (TA) involves a researcher randomly selecting a place and time and then recording what people are doing when they are first seen and before they see you. This may sound rather bizarre but it is a useful tool when you want to find out the percent of time people are doing things (i.e. playing with their kids, working, eating, etc.). Thereare several sampling problems with this approach. First, in order to make generalizations about how people are spending their time the researcher needs a large representative sample. Sneaking up on people all over town is tough way to spend your days. In addition, questions such as when, how often, and where should you observe are often a concern. Many researchers have overcome these problems by using nonrandom locations but randomly visiting them at different times.

    Unobtrusive Observation:
    Unobtrusive measures involves any method for studying behavior where individuals do NOT know they are being observed (don't you hate to think that this could have happened to you!). Here, there is not the concern that the observer may change the subject's behavior. When conducting unobtrusive observations, issues of validity need to be considered. Numerous observations of a representative sample need to take place in order to generalize the findings. This is especially difficult when looking at a particular group. Many groups posses unique characteristics which make them interesting studies. Hence, often such findings are not strong in external validity. Also, replication is difficult when using non-conventional measures (non-conventional meaning unobtrusive observation). Observations of a very specific behaviors are difficult to replicate in studies especially if the researcher is a group participant (we'll talk more about this later). The main problem with unobtrusive measures, however, is ethical. Issues involving informed consent and invasion of privacy are paramount here. An institutional review board may frown upon your study if it is not really necessary for you not to inform your subjects.

Here is a description of two types of unobtrusive research measures you may decide to undertake in the field:

  1. Behavior Trace studies:
    Behavior trace studies involve findings things people leave behind and interpreting what they mean. This can be anything to vandalism to garbage. The University of Arizona Garbage Project one of the most well-known trace studies. Anthropologists and students dug through household garbage to find out about such things as food preferences, waste behavior, and alcohol consumption. Again, remember, that in unobtrusive research individuals do not know they are being studied. How would you feel about someone going through your garbage? Surprisingly Tucson residents supported the research as long as their identities were kept confidential. As you might imagine, trace studies may yield enormous data.
  2. Disguised Field Observations:
    Okay, this gets a little sticky. In Disguised field analysis the researcher pretends to join or actually is a member of a group and records data about that group. The group does not know they are being observed for research purposes. Here, the observer may take on a number of roles. First, the observer may decide to become a complete-participant in which they are studying something they are already a member of. For instance, if you are a member of a sorority and study female conflict within sororities you would be considered a complete-participant observer. On the other hand you may decide to only participate casually in the group while collecting observations. In this case, any contact with group members is by acquaintance only. Here you would be considered an observer-participant. Finally, if you develop an identity with the group members but do not engage in important group activities consider yourself a participant-observer. An example would be joining a cult but not participating in any of their important rituals (such as sacraficing animals). You are however, considered a member of the cult and trusted by all of the members. Ethically, participant-observers have the most problems. Certainly there are degrees of deception at work. The sensitivity of the topic and the degree of confidentiality are important issues to consider. Watching classmates struggle with test-anxiety is a lot different than joining Alcoholics Anonymous. In all, disguised field experiments are likely to yield reliable data but the ethical dilemmas are a trade-off.

Federal Register (1991). Federal policy for the protection of human subjects notices and rules, part II. Federal register, 56, 28001-28032.

Observational Variables

Before you start on a research project make sure you how you are going to interpret your observations.

  1. Descriptive:
    Descriptive observational variables require no inference making on the part of the researcher. You see something and write it down.
  2. Inferential:
    Inferential observational variables require the researcher to make inferences about what is observed and the underlying emotion. For example, you may observe a girl banging on her keyboard. From this observation you may assume (correctly) that she is frustrated with the computer.
  3. Evaluative:
    Evaluative observational variables require the researcher to make an inference and a judgment from the behavior. For example, you may question whether computers and humans have a positive relationship. "Positive" is an evaluative judgment. You observe the girl banging on her keyboard and conclude that humans and computers do not have a positive relationship (you know you must replicate these findings!).

Okay, so this is a lot to remember. Go back up to the check-list of "things you should be able to. " and ask yourself some questions. Remember, observations are a great way to start and add to a research project.

Good luck observing!

Bernard, R. (1994). Research methods in anthropology. (2nd ed.) Chapters 14-15. California: AltaMira.

Gall, M., Borg., & Gall, J. (1996). Educational research. (6th ed.). Chapter 9. New York: Longman.

Montgomery, B. & Duck, S. (1991). Studying interpersonal interaction. Chapter 11. New York: Guilford.

And HIGHLY RECOMMENDED is Trochim's Knowledge Base which is packed with information about validity and research design.


The Power of a First Impression

New research suggests that first impressions are so powerful that they are more important than fact.

A new study found that even when told whether a person was gay or straight, people identified a person&rsquos sexual orientation based on how they looked &mdash even if it contradicted the facts presented to them.

&ldquoWe judge books by their covers, and we can&rsquot help but do it,&rdquo said Nicholas Rule, Ph.D., of the University of Toronto. &ldquoWith effort, we can overcome this to some extent, but we are continually tasked with needing to correct ourselves.&rdquo

&ldquoFurthermore, the less time we have to make our judgments, the more likely we are to go with our gut, even over fact,&rdquo he added.

&ldquoAs soon as one sees another person, an impression is formed,&rdquo Rule said. &ldquoThis happens so quickly &mdash just a small fraction of a second &mdash that what we see can sometimes dominate what we know.&rdquo

A series of recent studies, presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual conference in Austin, Texas, shows that appearance affects everything from whether we end up liking someone to our assessment of their sexual orientation or trustworthiness.

Researchers also note that a first impression formed online &mdash say from a Facebook photo &mdash is often more negative than a first impression formed face to face.

Study on Sexual Orientation and Trustworthiness

In a study on first impressions of sexual orientation, Rule and his colleagues showed 100 people photos of 20 men, identifying them either as gay or straight. The researchers then tested the participants&rsquo recall of the men&rsquos sexual orientations several times to ensure perfect memorization.

After this learning phase, the researchers then showed the participants the faces again, varying the amount of time they had to categorize the men&rsquos sexual orientations.

The researchers found that the less time the participants had to categorize the faces, the more likely they were to categorize the men according to whether they looked gay or straight, rather than what they had been told about their sexuality. With more time, however, the participants reverted to what they had learned about the men&rsquos sexuality.

&ldquoThey seemed to judge by appearance when they were forced to make their judgments quickly,&rdquo Rule said. &ldquoWhen they were allowed more time, though, they judged according to what they knew about the individuals.&rdquo

The researchers noted that they labeled half the faces with their actual sexual orientation and half with their opposite orientation. They did this to &ldquoteach the participants to learn information that was opposite to their perceptions,&rdquo Rule said.

&ldquoIt was important for us to establish a conflict between perception &mdash how the face looked &mdash and memory &mdash what they knew about the man&rsquos sexual orientation,&rdquo he said.

Rule points to the singer Ricky Martin, who for years denied he was gay before finally coming out.

&ldquoIn the 1990s, people might see Martin and think &lsquooh, that&rsquos a gay guy,&rsquo but then you&rsquod recognize that it was Ricky Martin and think &lsquooh, wait, that&rsquos Ricky Martin &mdash he told Barbara Walters that he was straight.&rsquo So there&rsquos a corrective process there: First impressions continue to assert themselves long after you know relevant information about a person,&rdquo he said.

Rule presented another study at the conference, which looked at how people categorized faces as trustworthy or not. In this study, facial appearance was a stronger predictor of whether people viewed someone as trustworthy than descriptive information provided, again, even if it conflicted.

&ldquoTogether, these studies help to illustrate the often inescapable nature of how we form impressions of other people based on their appearance,&rdquo Rule said.

&ldquoNot only should people not assume that others will be able to overcome aspects of their appearance when evaluating them, but also those of us on the other end should be actively working to consider that our impressions of others are biased.&rdquo

First Impressions in Person versus Online

Other research presented at the conference looked at the differences in how we form impressions in person versus online, through a video or by just watching people.

&ldquoIf you want to make a good impression, it is critical that it is done in person,&rdquo said Jeremy Biesanz, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia, who conducted three studies comparing the accuracy and bias of first impressions when formed under different circumstances.

The first study analyzed a series of experiments involving more than 1,000 participants who met each other through either a three-minute speed-dating style interview, or by watching a video of the person.

&ldquoWhat we observe here is that the accuracy of impressions is the same when you meet someone face to face or simply watch a video of them,&rdquo Biesanz said. &ldquoHowever, impressions are much more negative when you form impressions more passively through watching videotapes.&rdquo

While people could accurately attribute certain personality traits, such as extroverted, arrogant, or sociable, to others in person or by video, the magnitude of the positive attributes was lower via video, while the negatives attributes were higher.

The researchers found similar results in two other studies, including one that compared in-person impressions to those obtained through looking at Facebook photos. The other study compared in-person meetings to simply watching someone as a passive observer. In all cases, the passive means of making impressions were as accurate as the active ones, according to the researchers.

&ldquoHowever, there is an extremely large difference in the positivity of impressions,&rdquo he said. &ldquoMore passive impressions are substantially more negative.&rdquo

First Impressions of a Romantic Partner

How we create first impressions is also important when looking for a romantic partner. And new research in this field suggests that whether you meet someone online or in person dramatically changes the judging process.

&ldquoPeople are more likely to use abstract information to make their evaluations in hypothetical than in live impression formation contexts,&rdquo said Paul Eastwick, Ph.D., of the University of Texas, Austin, who presented results of his studies on gender differences in different romantic contexts at the conference.

What he found was that when men and women evaluate potential partners in person versus online, typical &ldquoideal&rdquo gender preferences disappear.

For example, men generally say they care about attractiveness in a partner more than women, while women say they care about earning prospects in a partner more than men.

&ldquoBut our meta-analysis reveals that men and women do not show these sex differences when they evaluate others in a face-to-face context,&rdquo Eastwick said. &ldquoThat is, attractiveness inspires men&rsquos and women&rsquos romantic evaluations to the same extent, and earning prospects inspires men&rsquos and women&rsquos romantic evaluations to the same extent.&rdquo

The research suggests that in face-to-face settings, people rely more on their gut-level evaluations of another person, according to the researcher.

&ldquoThey focus on how that person makes them feel,&rdquo Eastwick said. &ldquoIt is very hard to get a sense of this information when simply viewing a profile. This disconnect can cause confusion and distress in the online dating realm, as potential partners that seem terrific &lsquoon paper&rsquo prove to be disappointing after a face-to-face interaction.&rdquo

Photographs Predict Judgement

In another study, psychological researchers Drs. Vivian Zayas of Cornell University and Gül Günaydin of Middle East Technical University found that viewing a photograph can be a good predictor of how you will judge someone in person.

&ldquoDespite the well-known idiom to &lsquonot judge a book by its cover,&rsquo the present research shows that such judgments about the cover are good proxies for judgments about the book &mdash even after reading it,&rdquo said Zayas.

Her new research shows that initial impressions based on viewing a single photograph accurately predict how a person will feel about the other person in a live interaction that takes place more than a month later.

&ldquoMoreover, participants&rsquo initial judgments based on the photograph colored personality judgments following the interaction,&rdquo Zayas said. &ldquoThe results showed that initial liking judgments based on a photograph remained unchanged even after obtaining more information about a person via an actual live interaction.&rdquo


What Are Objective Observations?

Objective observations are observations that involve watching others in an unbiased manner and without attaching stereotypes. Objective observations involve studying and watching individuals to see their behaviors and actions in various situations, without attaching labels and stereotypes to those people. Objective observations are made by people every day, such as parents watching their children.

The primary purpose of objective observations is to study the behaviors and interactions of others without considering intrinsic motives of behaviors, such as gender and race. Objective observers strive to eliminate bias from their observations. Bias is a preconceived notion or belief about individuals or groups based on race, culture, religious affiliation and socioeconomic status. Holding stereotypes against others prevents true objective observation as it injects personal opinions and views into the situation or scene being observed. Another primary goal of objective observation is to avoid attaching negative labels to individuals. Negative labeling involves attaching certain moods and behaviors to others. A parent, for instance, might consider a child to be "moody," "naughty" or "nice." Placing a label on the child influences parents’ perceptions of their children, and reduces their likelihood of being able to make observations without assuming children are behaving because of certain personal characteristics.


Understanding Perception

Any new person you encounter—a potential boss, a prospective client, a new colleague—is likely to evaluate you in two phases. In phase one, the person makes an initial assessment of you quickly and without conscious thought, relying on a variety of heuristics, stereotypes, and other assumptions—using cues like your physical appearance, your organizational role, and your body language to fill in the blanks. This is less out of laziness (though there is some of that) than out of necessity. In a brief first meeting, the perceiver has too much to notice, understand, and act on to give you undivided, unbiased attention. In phase two—if there is a phase two—the perceiver has to work a lot harder, paying closer attention, gathering disparate data, and making sense of it to draw informed, thoughtful conclusions about you. It takes serious mental effort to weigh all the possible factors influencing your behavior and to reconsider the snap judgments made in phase one. So the perceiver needs to be motivated to do it and not too distracted.

In both phases, but particularly the first, the people forming an impression of you aren’t simply passive observers. They have, without necessarily realizing it, particular questions they are trying to answer about you. It’s as if they are looking through a distinct lens, or set of lenses, that shapes their view of you. The most powerful of these are the trust, power, and ego lenses. (Additional lenses, driven by personality, might also be present, but they’re typically less important.)

Other Lenses of Perception

Although the trust, power, and ego lenses are the ones that people use most often to form judgments about others, two sets of lenses specific to personality type can also come into play.

Promotion/Prevention

Does your perceiver tend to embrace risk or steer clear of it? Those with a promotion lens want to maximize gains and avoid missed opportunities, while those with a prevention lens try to minimize losses and maintain the status quo.

Advice:

Identify the lens of your perceiver and speak the appropriate motivational language.

Anxious/Avoidant

Does your perceiver have attachment issues? About half of U.S. adults have trouble relating to others. Some people display anxious behavior: They are needy, too accommodating, and sensitive to rejection. Others practice avoidance: They are aloof and struggle to connect.

Advice:

If an anxious or avoidant lens is present, be empathetic, patient, and reliable.

The trust lens is employed when people want to figure out if you are friend or foe. Perceivers answer that question by tuning in to two particular aspects of your character: your warmth (your expression of friendliness, respect, and empathy), which suggests that you have good intentions, and your competence (evidence that you are intelligent, skilled, and effective), which shows that you can act on your intentions.

The power lens comes into play when there is a disparity of power, especially when the perceiver has more than you do. He or she gazes through this lens to assess your instrumentality: “Prove yourself useful to me, or get out of my way.”

The ego lens gives the perceiver a sense of who’s on top. Subconsciously, people often want confirmation that they, or their group, are superior to other individuals or groups.

Turning back to Gordon, there are several ways in which Bob’s lenses no doubt influenced the outcome of the lunch interview. Gordon readily displayed his competence by reviewing his track record, but he failed to show warmth—indeed, the misunderstanding that led him to sample Bob’s food ended up conveying a lack of respect. Competence without warmth is a terrible combination, because it suggests that you may one day be a potent foe. Also, in focusing solely on his own accomplishments while talking with someone more powerful, Gordon failed to emphasize his instrumentality. If he had better explained how his previous experience would help him to further Bob’s goals at the university, it might have been a whole different ball game. As it was, looking through his trust, power, and ego lenses, Bob probably thought, Why hire an accomplished outsider who might work against me and make me look bad?


​Example Answer for Question 21 Paper 2: A Level Psychology, June 2017 (AQA)

For this observation, I would conduct a covert, naturalistic, non-participant and structured observation. The observation would be covert, and I would pose as a gym member or member of staff so that my observations do not affect the behaviour of the gym users. This would ensure that the behaviour I am observing is natural and that observer bias is minimised. Furthermore, there are no ethical issues with conducting a covert observation in the main gym because the behaviour in question is taking place in a public setting. The observation would therefore take place in a naturalistic (gym) setting and naturalistic observations tend to have higher external validity as the behaviour is being examined in the environment where it naturally occurs. I would not interact or engage with the people I am observing (non-participant) as this will improve my objectivity because I am remaining distant from the participants. Most importantly, I would conduct a structured observation as I would create a list of behavioural categories that I would use to observe gym behaviour.

Operationalised Behavioural Categories

I would include a range of behavioural categories based on the different pieces of equipment in the gym, including Treadmill – Walking/Jogging/Running Bike – Cycling Lifting Weights – Arms (biceps/triceps) Lifting Weights – Chest Lifting Weights – Shoulders Lifting Weights – Legs, etc. I would also include a category for resting (either standing or seated). I will collect this data using a tally sheet, as shown below, and the number of people engaging in each activity will be recorded every five minutes.

Use of Time/Event Sampling

For this observation, I would use time sampling where I would record the behaviour of everyone in the gym every five minutes. This would allow me to record (using a tally sheet) what different gym users are doing every five minutes and allow me to see whether people move onto different types of exercise at pre-determined intervals. Time sampling would be appropriate as it would allow us to gain a snapshot of activity at pre-determined time intervals. Event sampling would be difficult as you would be required to record every time a person moves from one piece of equipment to another, and this might be difficult to track.

Assessing Reliability

I will establish the reliability of the data by using two observers, to check for inter-observer reliability. I will operationalise the behavioural categories clearly and train the observers in how to use the tally sheet to record behaviour. Then I will get them both to observe the same gym for one hour and use a correlation test to determine how similar their scores were for each behaviour. If I found a correlation coefficient of .80 or more then I will know that there was a high level of reliability.

Please Note:These answers have been produced without the knowledge of the mark scheme and merely reflect my attempt at producing a model answer on the day of the exam.


Model Answer for Question 11 Paper 2: AS Psychology, June 2016 (AQA)

11 A researcher wanted to compare the effectiveness of two therapies for young offenders who had been identified as having anger management issues. Offenders, who were all sentences to two years in a Young Offenders’ Institution, were asked to volunteer to take part in an anger management programme. Fifty volunteers were randomly allocated to Group 1 (Therapy A) or Group 2 (Therapy B).

Each participant’s anger was assessed before and after therapy. For the pre-therapy anger score they completed an Anger Scale questionnaire and their responses were scores. A high score indicated extreme anger and a low score indicated mild anger.

For the next eight weeks, participants attended weekly sessions for Therapy A or Therapy B.

For the post-therapy anger score, at the end of the treatment period, participants completed the same Anger Scale questionnaire.

The data obtained are shown in Figure 1 below.

11.1 The researcher used volunteers for this study. Outline one disadvantage of using volunteers to take part in this study. [2 marks]

Suggested Answer: One problem with volunteer sampling is that the sample might be biased. In this study, it could be that only the eager Young Offenders would be willing to volunteer. This matters because it means that the sample is not representative of all offenders and reduces the generalisability of the findings.

Exam Hint:While this is only a two-mark question, many students failed to apply their knowledge to the scenario. Students need to ensure that for RM question that say ‘in this study’ that they are applying their knowledge to this specific scenario (e.g. young offenders).

11.2 Explain how the researcher could allocate the volunteers randomly to the conditions of the experiment. [3 marks]

Suggested Answer: All of the participants could be assigned a number, and the numbers could then be placed in a hat/envelope. The researcher would then pull each number out of the hat, assigning the first number to Group 1 (Therapy A), the second to Group 2 (Therapy B) and so on. Therefore, each of the participants has the same chance of being allocated to either Therapy A or B.

Exam Hint:Students need to pay careful attention to the number of marks available. Many answers did not go beyond statements like ‘place the names in a hat’ which is not going to secure full marks. Students need to be able to accurately describe what they would do from start to finish when randomly allocating volunteers to different conditions within an experiment (as detailed above).

11.3 Write a suitable hypothesis for this study. [3 marks]

Suggested Answer: Either Non-directional: There will be a difference in the reduction of post-therapy anger scores between participants who received Therapy A and those who received Therapy B.

OR Directional: People who received Therapy A will have a significantly larger reduction in anger level scores in comparison to people who received Therapy B.

Exam Hint:Many students failed to achieve full marks because they failed to determined what the DV was (the reduction in anger scores). It is important for any hypothesis question that student includes both conditions of the IV and a fully operationalised DV.

11.4 What do the data in Figure 1 seem to suggest. [3 marks]

Suggested Answer: The results suggest that both Therapy A and Therapy B reduce anger and are therefore effective treatments overall.

However, Therapy B is slightly more effective as the reduction in anger score was larger (a decrease of 25 in comparison to 20).

Finally, the results also reveal that the offenders in Group 1 were more angry at the start of the study in comparison to Group 2.

Exam Hint:A common issue with data interpretation question is that students do not write enough. The graph provided at least five different points that students could use and one mark was awarded for each point stated.

11.5 Explain how the study might be improved by using a matched pairs design. [4 marks]

Suggested Answer: Using a matched-pairs design would improve this study as it would reduce individual/participant differences. In an independent groups design, it could be participant variables that reduce the post-therapy scores in Group 2 and not the therapy itself. If the participants were matched on their anger scores pre-therapy, this would reduce this possibility. In the original experiment, there was a ten-point difference between Group 1 and 2 in their pre-anger scores and a matched pairs design would reduce/eliminate this difference.

Exam Hint:Many students explained what is meant by a matched pairs design and how you could use one. However, many students failed to acknowledge the most important aspect of the question: how it would ‘improve’ this experiment. The most important matching criteria for this experiment was the pre-therapy anger scores, as the original graph clearly showed a ten-point difference in these scores. Sadly, many students missed this point which meant their attempts to describe matched pairs were generic and not contextualised.

11.6 Outline one ethical issue that might have occurred in this study and explain how the researcher could have dealt with this issue. [4 marks]

Suggested Answer: One ethical issue that might have occurred in this study is protection from (psychological) harm, as the Young Offenders might feel anxious, especially if they find out they have a high anger score. Furthermore, the participants might feel pressure to improve, as there is an expectation associated with receiving therapy.

This could be dealt with by giving the participants the right to withdraw from the therapy and debriefing the participants, offering them follow-up care, if required. They could also be provided with a chance to ask any questions about the study.

Exam Hint:This question has two parts: 1) identifying an ethical issue 2) dealing with the issue however, the number of students who failed to acknowledge of complete the second part demonstrates the importance of keeping the whole question in mind.

11.7 Give one disadvantage of using median values as seen in Figure 1 to represent the anger scores of participants. [1 mark]

Suggested Answer: One disadvantage of the median is that is does not consider the entire data set, and therefore it does not represent the whole data.

Exam Hint:Students need to be careful of their expression. For example: ‘saying that the median doesn’t use all the data’ is vague, and students need to explain why this is an issue.

11.8 Explain how demand characteristics might have occurred in this study. [2 marks]

Suggested Answer: Participants may have figured out that the aim and adjusted their behaviour and given answers on the questionnaire that increased or decreased their score, depending on whether they wanted to please the researcher. Demand characteristics are likely to occur in this experiment as the researchers gave the participants the question before and after the treatment and therefore participants might realise that they should be giving different answers on the second occasion.

Exam Hint:Students need to ensure that they contextualise their answers. This question says ‘in this study’ and therefore the answer needs to be written within the context of offender behaviour.

11.9 The researchers used a questionnaire to assess the anger scores of the offenders. Briefly discuss one strength of using questionnaires in research. [2 marks]

Suggested Answer: One strength of using a questionnaire is that a large quantity of data can be collected relatively quickly in comparison to other methods (e.g. interviews). For example, questionnaires often used closed questions which produced quantitative data. This is a strength because it makes data analyse and replication easier in comparison to other methods.

Exam Hint:Student often struggle to develop RM evaluation points and they need to ensure that they state a point, provide an example and then explain why this matters.


Islamic Religiosity and Auditors’ Judgements: Evidence from Pakistan

We extend the literature by providing evidence that a cultural variable, intrinsic Islamic religiosity is important in understanding auditors’ judgement in the Islamic context of Pakistan. The intrinsic Islamic religiosity theoretical construct examined is Islamic Worldview (IW) which represents deeply held enduring and stable values which are likely to be dominant in influencing professionals’ judgements. Moreover, theoretical underpinning and empirical evidence in social psychology and organisational behaviour have established the critical role of intrinsic religiosity in influencing behaviour. Our first objective is to examine whether IW impacts auditors’ judgements in the context of their acceptance of uncorroborated low-reliability client-provided evidence. Understanding the potential impact of cultural factors on auditors’ acceptance of client-provided information is an essential factor in improving audit quality. Our findings support the hypothesis that auditors with high (low) IW scores are more (less) likely to accept uncorroborated low-reliability client-provided evidence. Our second objective is to examine the relationship between IW and auditors’ preference for exercising more or less judgements. Examining this topic is important because auditing is a judgement-based process: auditors’ judgements determine audit quality and, by extension, the quality of associated financial reports. Our findings provide overall support for the hypothesis that auditors with high (low) IW scores have a preference for exercising more (less) judgement. Our findings have implications for global and national standard setters, regulators, practitioners, and researchers. The results are also relevant to global audit firms and their affiliates, particularly networks operating in Islamic countries, in ensuring global consistency of audits.

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Types of Observation in User Research

Observing human behavior is an important element of most user-research methods.

Usability Testing

Usability testing involves both observing and listening to participants as they attempt to complete tasks with a user interface. Participants may think aloud, and you can ask questions to better understand what they’re thinking and doing, but the primary value is in observing their actions.

Contextual Inquiry

Contextual inquiry means observing people in their natural environment, as they demonstrate their typical tasks. Research participants lead their own session, explaining what they are doing, but the primary value is in observing the details of the ways they normally perform their tasks.

Naturalistic Observation

In naturalistic observation, the researcher attempts to observe one or more people unobtrusively, without interacting with them. The goal is to observe participants’ natural behavior, without interrupting them or affecting their behavior.

Shadowing

In shadowing, the researcher follows participants around as they perform their daily activities. The researcher may simply observe, without interacting with the participant, or a session may be more interactive, with participants talking about what they are doing and the researcher asking questions, similar to a contextual inquiry. The goal and primary value of this technique is to observe people’s natural activities.

Covert Observation

Covert observation is similar to naturalistic observation, but the researcher observes people without their knowing that they are being observed. Of course, you can ethically observe people covertly only in public places, where there is no expectation of privacy. For example, you might observe what people do in an airport. The advantage of covert observation is that it eliminates any effects your presence might have on a participant’s behavior. To learn more about this method, see my column, “Becoming a Spy: Covert Naturalistic Observation.”

Participant Observation

Participant observation is a traditional ethnographic method in which the researcher joins a group and participates in their activities. The researcher observes and interacts with group members while performing the same activities. For example, a researcher might become a call-center operator for a few days, with the goal of better understanding such operators’ work and experiences. For more information about this method, see my previous column, “Participatory Observation.”