Introspection and Observation Method in Psychology

The word 'Introspection' is made up of two Latin words. “Intro” meaning within and “Spection” meaning looking i.e. looking inwards.

Educational psychology is the scientific or systematic study of the behaviour of the learner in relation to his educational environment. This behaviour can be studied by a simple approach called observation. However, this observation method has to be adjusted depending upon the conditions in which observations have to be made, the procedure and tools adopted. The following are the various methods of observation under different situations:

Introspection and Observation Method in Psychology

1. Introspection method

The word 'Introspection' is made up of two Latin words. “Intro” meaning within and “Spection” meaning looking i.e. looking inwards. Hence it is a method where an individual is looking within one self. This method which is the oldest method of studying behaviour where the learner should make a self-observation. For example, when a person is angry he may be asked to determine how he felt during that period of anger by his own observation.

Introspection method is one of the oldest methods to collect data about the conscious experiences of the subject. It is a process of self–examination where one perceives, analyses and reports one‘s own feelings. Let us learn this process with the help of an example, suppose you are happy and in the state of happiness you look within yourself. It is said you are introspecting your own mental feelings and examining what is going on in your mental process in the state of happiness. Similarly, you may introspect in a state of anger or fear; etc Introspection is also defined as the notice, which the mind takes of itself.

This method is simple, direct, clear and reveals one's behaviour. But this method lacks reliability and can be used only for adult normal human beings. This method requires the support of other methods which are more reliable.

Stages of Introspection

There are three clear stages in introspection-

1. During the observation of external object, the person beings to ponder over his own mental state. For example While listening to music, which is to him pleasant or unpleasant, he starts thinking about his own mental state.

2. The person begins to question the working of his own mind. He thinks and analyses: Why has he said such and such thing? Why has he talked in a particular manner? And so on.

3. He tries to frame the laws and conditions of mental processes: He thinks in terms of improvement of his reasoning or the control of his emotional stages. This stage helps in the advancement of our scientific knowledge.

Merits of Introspection Method

  1. It is the cheapest and most economical method of studying behaviour. We do not need any apparatus or laboratory for its use.
  2. This method can be used any time and anywhere. You can introspect while walking, traveling, sitting on a bed & so on.
  3. It is the easiest method and is readily available to the individual.
  4. The introspection data is first-hand as the person himself examines his own activities.
  5. Introspection has generated research which gradually led to the development of more objective methods.
  6. It is still used in all experimental investigation.
  7. It is the only method with the help of which an individual can know his emotions and feelings.

Limitations of Introspection Methods

  1. The data collected by introspection cannot be verified. An individual may not pass through the same mental state again. There is no independent way of checking the data.
  2. The data collected by introspection lacks validity and reliability. It is impossible to acquire validity and exactness in self- observation of one‘s own mental processes.
  3. The data collected by introspection in highly subjective. It has danger of being biased and influenced by preconceptions of the individual.
  4. The observer and the observed are the same. Hence there is ample scope for the individual to lie deliberately and hide the facts to mislead others.
  5. Introspection cannot be applied to children, animal and abnormal people.
  6. Introspection is logically defective because one and the same person is the experimenter and observer. It is not possible for the same individual to act as an experimenter as well as an observer. Thus introspection is logically defective.

2. Observation Method

In this method the learner's behaviour is observed under natural conditions by other individuals. Such observation will be interpreted according to the perception of the observer. This helps to find out behaviour by observing a person's external behaviour.

For example, if a person frowns we can say that he is angry. But when we are studying behaviour in natural conditions we have to wait for the event to take place. This method is helpful in studying the behaviour of the children. However, this method will explain only observed behaviour, subjectivity of the investigation may affect the results.

Theories of behaviour can be developed. These experiments require the creation of artificial environment. Therefore, the scope is limited. Human behaviour is very dynamic and unpredictable. This method is also costly and time consuming.

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