Happiness, according to Aristotle, is the most desirable of all things. In the past few decades, many researchers have been studying predictors of happiness in an attempt to understand the construct.
Mehl, Vazire, Holleran, and Clark (2010) conducted a naturalistic observation on the topic of happiness using electronically activated recorders (a device that unobtrusively records snippets of sound at regular intervals, for a fixed amount of time). In this study, 79 undergraduate students wore the device for 4 days; 30-second recordings were made every 12.5 minutes. Each snippet was coded as having been taken while the participant was alone or with people. If the participant was with somebody, the recordings were also coded for “small talk” and “substantial talk.” Other measures administered were well-being and happiness.
First, acquire and read the article:
Mehl, M. R., Vazire, S., Holleran, S. E., & Clark, C. S. (2010). Eavesdropping on happiness: Well-being is related to having less small talk and more substantive conversations. Psychological Science, 21, 539–541. doi:10.1177/0956797610362675
Then, after reading the article, consider the following:
1. What is the research question for this study?
2. Is the basic approach in this study qualitative or quantitative?
3. Is this study an example of concealed or nonconcealed observation? What are the ethical issues present in this study?
4. Do you think that participants would be reactive to this data collection method?
5. How reliable were the coders? How did the authors assess their reliability?
6. How did the researchers operationally define small talk, substantive talk, well-being, and happiness? What do you think about the quality of these operational definitions?
7. Does this study suffer from the problem involving the direction of causation (p. 79)? How so?
8. Does this study suffer from the third-variable problem (p. 83)? How so?
9. Do you think that this study included any confounding variables? Provide examples.
10. Given the topic of this study, what other ways can you think of to conduct this study using an observational method?
Archival research (p. 126)
Case study (p. 125)
Coding system (p. 123)
Content analysis (p. 128)
Naturalistic observation (p. 119)
Participant observation (p. 121)
Psychobiography (p. 125)
Reactivity (p. 124)
Systematic observation (p. 123)
1. What is naturalistic observation? How does a researcher collect data when conducting naturalistic observation research?
2. Why are the data in naturalistic observation research primarily qualitative?
3. Distinguish between participant and nonparticipant observation; between concealed and nonconcealed observation.
4. What is systematic observation? Why are the data from systematic observation primarily quantitative?
5. What is a coding system? What are some important considerations when developing a coding system?
6. What is a case study? When are case studies used? What is a psychobiography?
7. What is archival research? What are the major sources of archival data?
8. What is content analysis?
1. Some questions are more readily answered using quantitative techniques, and others are best addressed through qualitative techniques or a combination of both approaches. Suppose you are interested in how a parent’s alcoholism affects the life of an adolescent. Develop a research question best answered using quantitative techniques and another research question better suited to qualitative techniques. A quantitative question is, “Are adolescents with alcoholic parents more likely to have criminal records?” and a qualitative question is, “What issues do alcoholic parents introduce in their adolescent’s peer relationships?”
2. Devise a simple coding system to do a content analysis of print advertisements in popular magazines. Begin by examining the ads to choose the content dimensions you wish to use (e.g., gender). Apply the system to an issue of a magazine and describe your findings.
3. Read each scenario below and determine whether a case study, naturalistic observation, systematic observation, or archival research was used.Page 131