Pros and Cons Of Naturalistic Observation In Psychology


Many social scientists and physiologists use research methods to observe or collect information about subjects in their natural environment. Such a type of observation is known as naturalistic observation. Observing a subject in its natural form means their attitude and feedback to the things are genuine and not elaborated. It is an approach to qualitative research focusing on collecting, analysing and describing non-numerical data. Naturalistic observation is the most practical research method as it doesn’t require sterilising the environment or provoking subjects to get the desired results. Still, some are doubting about this.

There are numerous reasons psychologists would use this approach and a few cases where it would not be acceptable. That is why, each time, a review of the real observation pros and cons is critical to the overall study process.

In this article, I’m discussing the opposing views on the pros and cons of this type of research. Here it is:

Pros of Naturalistic Observation

There are some advantages of this research method are:

Natural behaviour

People react differently in different situations, especially when taking them out of their comfort zones. In lab settings, people do not behave naturally, even if they may try not to provide the information that the researcher specifically wants. People show their true feelings and attitude when they are not examined. By using the naturalistic observation approach, it becomes possible to collect genuine information without making them out of their comfort levels.


Naturalistic observation is often used to validate the results from previous experiments. Naturalistic observation is often used to validate the results from previous experiments. Researchers may assume that lab studies can generalise to a large population, but that doesn’t mean they would observe those findings in a natural setting. They may conduct these real observations to make that confirmation.


In naturalistic observation, the researcher is considered safer as there is no need for the researcher to interact with the subject to observe the natural habits of people and wild animals such as tigers, elephants and many others. Animal behaviour is unpredictable, and this research method keeps the researcher far away from the subject.

Study ideas that cannot be manipulated

Ideas can change in lab settings rather than natural environments. Naturalistic observation allows it to happen for researchers to study the ideas of people that can’t be manipulated because of the ethics involved.

Multiple methods for data collection

The naturalistic observation method provides a variety of techniques to collect data from the subject in natural settings. They might write down the subject’s specific things, choices and actions to specific trimmings. Making a video recording of the particular behaviour and actions of the subject or creating an observer narrative describing the session. The researcher also takes an audio recording of the subjects suitable for a different situation. These data types make it possible for researchers to go back through the scenarios observed to determine if it requires more information.

Genuine reactions

In most cases, it clearly shows that the social scientist and psychologist who used the research method of naturalistic observation collects more realistic and genuine reactions from the individual other than those who used other techniques of data collection. This method is also suitable for non-human subjects. When people are dealing with a stressful or emotional situation, they forget that they are being observed, making it possible for the researcher to see the process of buildup that eventually leads to a choice or attitude.

Hence, these are some advantages of naturalistic observation. If you want to study this in detail, go and visit Psychology Essay Writing Services. The writers of such services will guide you properly.

Cons of Naturalistic Observation

Many social scientists and psychologists can use naturalistic observation, but it also has some disadvantages that can be discussed below:

Outside variables

The existence of outside variables may make it tough for researchers to identify the actual reason for behaviour or choices, which might be the most significant disadvantage of naturalistic observation. Researchers have almost no control over the influence of the subject in natural settings. When a researcher observes a subject in a natural setting, several situations can cause a subject to behave; differently, which may not be under observation. These disruptions could significantly affect the test’s results and render it ineffective.

Not always generate accurate data

People react even differently in natural settings if they sense something is not right. People are sensitive to the ideas of accountability when they are dealing with personal preference, morality and ethics. If people know that they are being watched for their choices, they make them in a well-mannered way. For social scientists, this indicates that the individuals involved may attempt to appear acceptable or desirable from a social standpoint. Even researchers try to prevent these disadvantages, but it can be challenging to eliminate the issue.

Lack of control

Using the naturalistic observation method, lack of control is one of the disadvantages. Many suppressors and moderate variables can alter the results as you search the subjects in a natural setting.

Inability to draw cause-and-effect conclusions

Another disadvantage of naturalistic observation is that finding the exact cause of the subject’s behaviour can be difficult.

Observer preference

The preference of people who observes natural activities can influence the judgment of the experiments.

It can take a long time

If a researcher wants to make accurate results, the researcher has to observe the subject’s behaviour for a long time. It will help to collect more accurate data for making good results of an experiment. Some naturalistic observations can take months or even years to complete the research.


The pros and cons of naturalistic observation conclude that this research method is the best method for gaining accurate and realistic results. Observing the subject in a natural behaviour rather than a laboratory setting may cause people to manipulate ideas according to the information they want to give the researcher. There are also some disadvantages that researchers can’t fully control. That is why, even when generalisation is made to the general public, the data gathered through this method must be viewed carefully.

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