Observation is a method of the primary information collection by passive recording of certain processes, acts of people, events which can be revealed by sense organs (the method is based on visual and acoustic perception of the phenomena) by the researcher. Observable processes should be accessible by nature to the observation and occur on public (open behavior), for example, in shops, streets, or at offices.
In the majority of researches of naturalistic observations an observer is hidden from the observable respondents. For example, at studying the ability of preschool children to share something with other children the observer can sit in the next room and watch children through a transparent mirror (children see only a mirror). Studying the rituals of acquaintances of city teenagers in malls an observer can simply sit on a bench in strategically favourable place. In other researches the observer can be absent in general: the increasing quantity of naturalistic observations is conducted with the use of recording equipment. Then the records are analized, and the researcher estimates the behavior of the respondents.
Naturalistic observation is the process of data gathering by means of careful observations over the events proceeding in natural conditions. In psychopathology it is a traditional and basic method of studying of the painful phenomena.
“Naturalistic inquiry focuses primarily on describing the characteristics of a social phenomenon. The aim is understanding the phenomenon rather than controlling it. Naturalistic researchers are interested in knowing all about each characteristic, or element, of the social phenomenon and how the elements work together to create the situation under study” (Mellon: 1990).
The majority of naturalistic clinical observations are conducted at home, at schools, in such organizations as hospitals and prisons, and in other public places. During naturalistic observations the basic attention is given to mutual relations “parents – children”, “brothers – sisters”, “a teacher – a pupil”, and also to aggressive, destructive and frightening behavior. There are two main kinds of naturalistic behaviour: the so-called “included” or “active observation” and “passive observation”. Naturalistic observations are more often conducted by the so-called “included” observers, the most significant people in the environment of the patient, and the results of the observations are then analysed by specialists.