Developmental scientists use naturalistic methods to assess behaviors, physiology, thoughts, and emotions as they spontaneously unfold in natural environments. The goal is to uncover patterns that generalize to the real world by maximizing the ecological validity of the data (i.e., by collecting the data in conditions that closely approximate the actual situations and settings under investigation). These passive observations contrast with methods that are more commonly used to study development, such as observations made in tightly controlled laboratory situations or research participants’ own descriptions of their typical behavioral patterns. Naturalistic data can be collected through direct recordings of people as they go about their ordinary lives, such as recordings of their physiology (e.g., blood pressure) and audio or video recordings made in public and private ...

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