PSYCH 018 Index > Observation Assignment

Observation of Human Behavior

“You can see a lot just by observing.”
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra (1925—)

Read everything before doing anything!

This lab is adapted from an assignment by Dr. John Ruys


Observation is a frequently use method to collect data on the behavior of humans and a variety of other species. The behaviors that can be observed include the simplest of movements to patterns of social interactions between groups of animals. Some human behaviors are performed unconsciously without us even being aware that we are doing them. For example, people will often touch their face when nervous or to break eye contact with a stranger.

In this laboratory exercise students will perform a short period of observations to count the number of times human subjects touch their faces. Data will then be examined for differences in the frequency of face touching between men and women. This exercise will provide students with familiarity with observation of human behavior, how to prepare data, and how to analyze data. Before collecting data you must generate two predictions concerning face touching behavior in men and women. Also spend this time thinking about an explanation for your alternate hypothesis.

Data Collection

Students will observe the behavior of humans around EVC. Students will break into pairs. One student will observe a subject and the other person will keep time and record the frequency of behaviors. Subjects will be observed for 2 min. Each pair of students must observe 8 subjects. Try to avoid being noticed (do not stare for the 2 min observation, keep glancing around and moving your head). Do not observe the same subject more than once and give each subject a unique number or name.

Data will be collected on face touching. This will be defined as any physical contact of the hands on the face, neck, chin, or hair. This might include twirling fingers through one’s hair, scratching the chin, rubbing the neck, or a brief touch on the cheek. Count a face touch only once regardless of how long it lasts. A new contact can be scored once the hand moves away from the face for 1 sec. Use a table like this to enter your results:

Subject ID Gender
M or F
Number of Face Touches

Hypothesis Testing

Once you have collected data on all subjects return to the lab. You will need to total the number of face touches for each subject. You will then use SOFA statistics to determine if there is a significant difference in face touches between males and females.

Using SOFA

When you start SOFA, you will see the main menu. Click the button labeled Enter/Edit Data. (You may click on any of the screenshots to see them at full size.)


SOFA maintains a database that consists of tables of data. You usually have one table for each experiment that you do. In this case, you need to add a new table, so click the New button.


You now must specify what columns your table will have, and what kind of data goes into each column. Enter the data as shown in the following screenshot. Use the TAB key to move from field to field. Make sure you have a blank line at the bottom. When you finish, click the Update button.


Now add your data. You may use either upper or lower case for the gender, but once you make up your mind, be consistent! In the following screenshot, I have used lower case, and have sorted out all the data for the males and females. You may enter the data in any order you wish. Again, you use the TAB key to move from field to field.


Once you have entered your data, click the Close button until you return to the main menu. From the main menu, click the Statistics button.

On the statistics page, you will select the choice labeled t-test - independent. This is the correct test to use for the observation because each participant belongs to only one gender (the independent variable), and the dependent variable is an interval scale.


You must now configure (set up) the test as follows:

  1. You want to find if there’s a significant difference in average number of touches, so select touches for the variable to be averaged.
  2. You want differences by gender, so you must group the data by gender. One group is the females...
  3. And the other group is the males.
  4. If you have Add to report selected, the output will go to a file on your disk as well as to the screen. You don't need to save the output, so un-check that box.

Once everything is set up, click the Show Results button.


Writing Up the Study

In a word processing document, answer the following questions. You do not need to use the APA template or write up the statistics in APA format (since you don’t know how to do that yet!)

  1. What is the null hypothesis for this observation?
  2. What is an alternate hypothesis for this observation?
  3. What was the value of your t-statistic?
  4. What was the probability value?
  5. Is your result significant or not? (Don’t worry if your result is not significant. This is just a lab to get you familiar with observation and doing statistics.)

Print out this paper and attach a copy of your raw data (the sheet you used to gather your data).