Historically, sequential observational methods have proved useful when process aspects of behavior are more important than behavioral products or for studying any behavior that unfolds over time. They have been widely used for studying nonverbal organisms (e.g., infants) and nonverbal behavior generally, especially social behavior. The study of social interaction generally and interactional synchrony in particular (here exemplified with the matching of toddler-mother rhythmic behavior) are two areas in which observational methods have been widely used. Observational methods seem to have a kind of naturalness not always shared with other measurement strategies. Observers are not always passive or hidden, and situations may be contrived, and yet the behavior captured by observational methods seems freer to unfold, reflecting more the target's volition than seems the case with, for example, self-report questionnaires. Self-reflection is not captured, but aspects of behavior outside immediate articulate awareness often are.
With recent advances in technology, observational methods have become dramatically easier. Handheld devices can capture digital images and sound, computers permit playback and coding while automating clerical functions, and computer programs permit flexible data reduction and analysis. Whether or not future investigators select observational methods will come to depend more on whether the method fits at least some aspect of the behavior under study and far less on some of the technical obstacles of the past. All this makes it more likely that the data analyzed at the end of the day will, in the spirit of this volume, represent multiple methods and permit a genuinely multimethod perspective on the behavior that brought us to research in the first place.
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