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Observational Data

In social and behavioral science research, specific means allow for the collection of information from human participants of all ages. Investigators may test participants directly; they may obtain reports about participants from others; or they may observe the participants themselves. This entry addresses the significance of observational data over the life span and explores methodological questions, recording technologies, coding systems, coding strategies, coders, and scores.

Observation involves recording the stream of behavior of individuals in the uninterrupted natural flow of time. Direct observation accords with an epistemological emphasis on overt behavior, quantification, and low levels of inference. For these reasons, observational procedures are rigorous and powerful, measuring behavioral frequency and duration. The observational approach is often considered the gold standard against which other kinds of assessments ...

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