Factors affecting observation

Factors affecting observation

Factors that affect observations include sensitivity and awareness; fatigue, illness, and discomfort; one’s personality; and controlling our biases.

Sensitivity and Awareness

The first factor that affects an observation is the observer’s sensitivity and awareness. Sensitivity is the ability to see or hear changes or differences, while awareness is the amount of attention someone gives to something. With either one of these factors on top of their game, it can be easy for an observer to identify subtle changes in objects. However, there has also been concern about how this factor can lead to negative outcome of observation, such as when a student is trying to learn something and is unable to observe the cause of failure, if they are not ready with the information. This would lead to inaccurate learning and ultimately affect their performance (Pandey, & Pandey, 2021).

example; Awareness if an important factor in the process of observation. For example, most of us don’t realize that we are able to see at a very high level of visual acuity; from birth. The majority of factors that contribute to our awareness are things like age, position, and light levels. By observing other people and their reactions to something we can learn more about our own awareness. Our sensitivity is also affected by age and position.

Fatigue, Illness, and Discomfort

The amount of fatigue, illness, and discomfort affects how much an observer can see during a time frame. If a person has just woken up or is about to have their physical activity cut short for some other reason, then it can be harder for them to observe accordingly. Therefore, if an observer tries to catch every little change or difference that occurs in a small-time frame, then they will deal with more fatigue than usual. Fatigue, Illness and Discomfort this type of learning can lead to negative outcomes and behaviors in that the observer will become stressed out and unable to focus or concentrate on the things they have observed (Weakley et al., 2021).

example; a person could see that his child is getting bullied at school. His child may be in pain and feel embarrassed because of the other kids being mean to her. The person may try to get his child out of school by taking her out of class or sending her home early.

One’s personality

Personality is a very influential factor in observation. If one personality type is much more prone to be sensitive, then they may be able to see changes that other cannot. However, there has also been evidence that those with more negative emotions and a high emotional intelligence often have less sensitivities than those with more positive emotions and emotional stability thus leading them to make wrong conclusions about the things they have observed (Pandey, & Pandey, 2021).

example; A person who has had little experience observing or observing things like human behavior could notice the body language of an adolescent as he hit his girlfriend or as he got angry at his parents.

Controlling our biases

The final factor that affects observation is controlling our biases. Our biases can be generally understood as the way in which we perceive and interpret things. Thus, it is important for an observer to control for their own biases when looking out for things that matter to the observer. Although, controlling our bias can negatively affect observation outcomes through the observer not being able to control their biases and their actions causing the observation outcomes to be very biased and inaccurate (Pandey, & Pandey, 2021). Example; a father may tend to look at his daughter and expect more out of her than all her friends because she is his child, which might cause him not to see her begin to skip school or get into trouble around her neighborhood.

2. Three categories of Errors in Recording Observations.

The three categories of Errors in Recording Observations include errors of Omission, errors of Commission and errors of transmissions.

Errors of Omission;

These types of errors simply are omissions of a type of observation. In case of error of complete omission, contractor or an observer should not fail to record any type of observation.

Example: Omission to record all observations of soil moisture.

Errors of Commission;

Errors of commission is when a participant in an experiment makes a mistake in recording data. In this category, contractor records an observation which is completely opposite to what he should have recorded (Pandey, & Pandey, 2021). These types of errors are mostly because of the carelessness on the part of contractor and improper training and supervision.

Example: Contractor reads 300mm for rainfall but instead writes down 200mm for rainfall.

Example-2: Contractor writes 350mm for rainfall instead 250 mm of rainfall.

Errors in transmission;

This type is when the data has been incorrectly recorded due to broken or malfunctioning equipment that is used from one person to another, for example using a mobile phone. This type of errors is so commonly concealed and is extremely difficult to trace back (Pandey, & Pandey, 2021).

Example: Contractor writes 300 mm for rainfall and transmits it to observers on the mobile phone but instead, made mistake in data entry process and transmit ed 200 mm.

Understanding and knowing about these three categories are helpful in future observations in that they can help observers and participants to identify the various causes of errors and work towards minimizing the effects of these errors on quality of data collected.

3. Accuracy and Reliability and share: Objective description, Interpretation, and Evaluation

The proximity of a measured value to a standard or known value is referred to as accuracy whereas reliability refers to the degree to which a test measures without mistake.

1. Objective description: The exposition of the objectives and design processes involved in making a product or conducting research that enables one to determine whether the goals have been met. An objective account of the object measured, its properties, the quantities to be measured, and the measuring instrument or method used in conjunction with other factors such as equipment design and environmental conditions (Powell, & Baskir, 2021).

2. Interpretation: The evaluation of the success or failure rate associated with an initiative, usually expressed as a percentage, i.e., “the project was 75% successful”.

3. Evaluation: A critical analysis and review that evaluates an objective by examining its methods, technology, and results for quality and accuracy. It is the evaluation of a product, service or process for criteria such as effectiveness, efficiency, timeliness, safety, etc. It is used to determine whether an objective has been met.

4. Benefits of a group observation over individual observation

There are some instances when a group observation is much more valuable than an individual observation for example when you are researching a new product or have to make a marketing plan for a company. In these cases, it is important that the observations are coordinated and done in groups of different people who can come together to share their opinions on what they have observed (Pandey, & Pandey, 2021).

For example, if you want to find the best place for a new grocery store in a city, it will be more valuable for one person to go and observe their competition than it would be for each individual person in the city. Another example is when you want to conduct a study on how many people have your disease. It might seem like an individual observation could suffice and provide enough data, but as with most things in life, it’s better done by observing lots of people simultaneously.

How would you do the observation?

The simplest way to conduct a group observation would be to observe people in a certain location each day and record anything relevant you see. In the first example, each day you could drive through every neighborhood in your city and count how many grocery stores are in each neighborhood, then compare them all at the end. In the second example you would observe people who lived close to a clinic and count the number of people who came in with your disease.

It’s important to note that group observations are more prone to error than individual observations because more things can go wrong. Because multiple things can go wrong at once it becomes more difficult to make sure that nothing is overlooked or missed in the observation process.


Pandey, P., & Pandey, M. M. (2021). Research methodology tools and techniques. Bridge Center.

Powell, D. M., & Baskir, E. A. (2021). A matter of time: Comparing observation methods. In Exploring Animal Behavior in Laboratory and Field (pp. 49-61). Academic Press.

Weakley, J., Morrison, M., García-Ramos, A., Johnston, R., James, L., & Cole, M. H. (2021). The validity and reliability of commercially available resistance training monitoring devices: a systematic review. Sports medicine, 51(3), 443-502.

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