AlliedAmerican University



PeopleWatching 101 – Naturalistic Observation

Naturalisticbehavior observation can be described in a number of ways. However,the most compelling definition as per my understanding is thatdescribing this action as the research procedure mostly used bysocial scientists, researchers, and psychologists and which involvesobserving subjects in their innate surrounding. This form of researchis encouraged in circumstances where carrying out lab research isunrealistic, too expensive, or would interfere with the naturalbehavior of the subject. Physical assessment of subjects is distinctfrom structured observation in that it involves investigating abehavior as it happens in its natural surrounding under no influencefrom the researcher. Naturalistic observation has two significantadvantages in contrast to a structured one:

  • It enables the research professional to assess the subject directly in an innate environment

  • It allows research experts to investigate things that are not easy to manipulate in a lab because of ethical concerns. For instance, while it would not be ethical to examine the effects of imprisonment by confining subjects, experts can collect information by utilizing naturalistic observation in an authentic prison setting.

Therefore,this paper will attempt to collect data discreetly from an actualevent and which involves a congregation of people coming from varioussocial classes.

NaturalisticObservation Scenario: A Political Rally

Ona recent summer trip to Africa, Kenya to be precise, I attended amassive political rally of one of the most popular parties in thecountry. The event began way before the crowd, and their leadersreached the venue of convergence. On the way, the leaders waved andaddressed the charging, ecstatic, wild crowd greeting them. I couldsee people running helter skelter as they chased the vehiclesferrying those they considered their &quotheroes.&quot People laydown on the roads, blew &quotvuvuzelas,&quot and whistles, andutilized any form of instruments to display their amateur soundcreation skills that had no rhythm or rhyme, as they marched to themeeting ground. There was a detailed availability of securitypersonnel ready to qualm any mischief or conflict. Despite all thedrama going on, the march was nonviolent. On reaching the location ofthe event, in a National stadium, the politicians sat in theirdesignated VIP seats waiting for the crowd to settle beforeunleashing their agenda for the day. The crowd was joyous and angryat the same time. This could be seen in the way they reacted to themention the failures of their political rivals and giving applause totheir own leaders` promises.

Oncesettled, the crowd went silent to listen to what brought them to theevent. I sat among the crowd at the back and watched them everybehavior as the leaders woke up to offer their address from least tothe most senior. The fans kept quiet for most of the time they werebeing directed by the lesser known leaders. They only applauded atthe close of their respective speeches. Apart of the crowd was lessenthusiastic than the others they neither jumped, praised nor ran.They either laughed or nodded their heads in affirmation ordisagreement. Another section of the crowd was more observant andcritical. They were not euphoric as the others. They discussed in lowtones on the points being raised by offering their approval.

However,what was appalling was how the whole multitude woke up, shouted,screamed and danced when the official leader of the party steppedforward to give his address. By far, he was the most popular figureamong his comrades. His every close of a statement was received witha loud affirmation and cheer. As he tore through his opponents withsongs, parables and factual state of affairs of the state, the crowdgrew more ecstatic and euphoric. They approved all his points with noobjection. Some of them conversed in their communal dialect as theycould not speak fluently in English or Swahili (the county`s Nationallanguage). Even his colleagues laughed and applauded as he swiftlyengaged the crowd in a dance associated with a popular band in thecountry. As the rally concluded, the group was high in spirit theydiscussed how this had been the best address of the year. Theybelieved in every word uttered by the leaders and strategized on howthey could ascend to power. This time round, there was littlerunning and commotion as they left the grounds to their home. I betthey had exhausted all their energy in cheering all through therally.

Analysisof the Behavior Observed

Theabove rally occurred during the country`s regular weekend politicalrallies. These take place after all the legislatures, senators,governors, and other leaders are freed from their normal duties.According to the above observation of the crowd, it is clear to notethe euphoric nature of mass behavior in a political rally. Mostpeople do not reason on their own in this kind of setting they actdepending on how others do. This is a great example of a peerpressure scenario where there is no instance of individualdecision-making. Conclusively, we can derive a theory that statesthat people in a crowd have no control over their emotions oractions they react according to the behavior of their fellow fans.For instance, a renowned manager of a famous retail store undressedhimself to the underwear level just to express his loyalty to thepolitical figure in the podium.

Measuringthe Observation

Thecrowd behavior was measured by observing the frequency, at which theyshouted, screamed, ran, jumped, and applauded. In addition, I alsonoted the duration of time taken by a particular behavior. Forinstance, a typical cheering session would last for about 30 secondsbefore dying off. On the other hand, the frequency of the shouts andscreams occurred every time the crowd agreed or disagreed with apoint raised by the addresses.

Therationale for the above conclusion on the study of crowd behavior isderived from the fact that the group acted in unison. There was nevera moment where disapproved the other for performing an individualaction. This indicated their accommodation of each other’scraziness.

Conceptsin Psychology

Thereare various concepts used in study the nature of human behavior, butwe are going to discuss only three of them as they are contained inour study module:

  • Perception

  • Attention

  • Cognition

  1. Perception

Perceptionis described as the identification, organization, and analysis ofsensory information so as to represent and comprehend theenvironment. Perception involves indicators from the nervous system,which may result from chemical or physical stimulation of the sensingfunctionality. For instance, a smell is mediated by molecules ofodor vision entails light reaching the retina of the eye whilehearing entails pressure waves. Perception does not involve thepassive receipt of the above signals but is formed by attention,expectation, learning, and hope. Perception is usually divided intotwo processes. First, processing sensory input changes informationfrom a low-level one to higher-level. Second, processing concernedwith a person`s concept and knowledge (expectations), and attention(selective mechanisms) that affect perception.

Inreality, the concept of perception is essential in the psychologyworld as it is used to comprehend the human mind and how it perceivesthings. In addition, it is utilized to understand the sensory systemof humans (Bly &amp Rumelhart Eds., 1999 p. 89).

  1. Attention

Attentionis described as the cognitive and behavioral process of selectivelyfocusing on a discrete portion of information, which may be deemedobjective or subjective while ignoring other recognizableinformation. This concept remains a fundamental area of assessmentwithin neuroscience, psychology, education, neuropsychology, andcognitive neuroscience. It concentrates on certain areas of an activeinvestigation involving the establishing of the cause of the sensorysignals and cues that create attention. It also focuses on the impactof these visual cues on the regulation functionality of sensoryneurons. In addition, it investigates the correlation betweenattention and other behavioral processes such as vigilance andworking memory.

Today,through the help of the progressive technological developments, thisconcept has gained massive importance in the neuroscience field as itis used to by neurologists and psychologists to image and study brainactivity while examining attention patterns (Bly &amp RumelhartEds., 1999 p. 89).

  1. Cognition

Cognitionrefers to a set of the mental processes and abilities that relate toknowledge. Human cognition is known to be conscious and unconscious,abstract of concrete, and intuitive and conceptual. This process usesavailable knowledge in addition to producing new knowledge. Thecognitive processes are assessed from various angles within distinctcontexts, notably in the fields of anesthesia, linguistics,psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience, education, anthropology,systemics, computer science as well as philosophy. In the fields ofpsychology and philosophy, the concept is deeply related totheoretical concepts such as intelligence and mind.

Today,in psychology, this concept is used in the field of cognitiveneuropsychology that is important in the study of brain injury tounderstand normal cognitive utility. Cognition is also an integralelement in the study of animal cognition that is highly significantin understanding the theory on the subject of evolutionary psychologyin cognitive functional systems (Bly &amp Rumelhart Eds., 1999 p.89).


Bly,B. M., &amp Rumelhart, D. E. (Eds.). (1999). Cognitivescience.Academic Press.