Recording and analyzing behavior

Recording and analyzing behavior

Due Date: As indicated in the Syllabus.

What is this assignment about? You will collect data on a specific behavior being displayed by children on online/Netflix/TV/cable shows, do a simple analysis of the data, and then answer some questions. The behavior to be observed is prosocial behavior. You will be asked to think about:

  • to what extent prosocial behavior is depicted on television (or online);
  • whether one gender displays more prosocial behavior than the other gender;
  • and the consequences being experienced by each gender.

How do I define prosocial behavior? Before watching the shows, write a comprehensive operational definition of what you mean by prosocial behavior. Remember, you are observing behavior (so your definition shouldn’t mention thoughts or feelings or motivations because these are not things that we can observe). Your definition must be clear enough so that someone else could use your definition while watching the same shows and derive the same results. Using this definition, you will count the number of instances of prosocial behavior being displayed by a boy or by a girl on each show.

How do I collect the data?

Choose an episode (online, TV, etc.) with a child actor (about 3 to 12 years of age) (not an infant, teen or adult, and not cartoon characters).

e.g., some students have suggested Full house, Modern family, or Ozark. You are not looking for a documentary-style show or cartoons.

You need two different shows that each have a boy actor and two different shows that each have a girl actor. So, you will watch four different shows, in total.

Watch each show for 10 continuous minutes. (Consider recording the shows or choosing shows that are available online as you may find it useful to re-watch segments for more accurate observations.) You can start watching at any point in the episode, such as when the child actor first appears onscreen – it doesn’t have to be at the beginning of the show.

During the 10 minute time span:

  1. count the number of instances of prosocial behavior being displayed by the child that you have chosen.
  2. note whether the consequence following each example of prosocial behavior is positive (e.g., a reward of some type), negative (e.g., a punishment of some type), or neutral (i.e., no consequences).
  3. Enter this information (typed) on the Record Form. See Sheet 1 of Record Form. Record your name, ID number, and section number on the Form because you will submit it as part of your assignment.
    1. Note that Section 1 is for information about the behavior of boys and Section 2 for girls.
    1. Enter the name of each show that you watched on the left hand side of the Form.
    1. If you did not observe any example of the behavior, enter the number zero in the cell – do not leave it blank.

How do I analyze my data? So, your form now contains the total number of instances of prosocial behaviour, positive consequences, negative consequences, and neutral/no consequences for each of two boys AND for two girls.


Calculate the mean (i.e., average) score across shows for the prosocial behaviours.

Calculate the mean (i.e., average) score across shows for the positive consequences, and then for the negative consequences, and then for neutral/no consequences.

The mean score is calculated by adding the totals across the two shows for a particular category and then dividing by the number of shows (i.e., 2). 

Questions to Answer

Answer the questions in your own words; do not copy from any source.

  1. State your operational definition of prosocial behavior. Describe one example of this behavior in a show that you watched.
  • a. Define what is meant by the term experimental design.

b. Is the method that you used in this assignment an example of an experimental design? Why or why not?

  • Describe using words the numbers that you recorded on the Observation Record Form. However, don’t explain what you think your results mean, as this is the next question that you will answer.
  • What is the meaning of the results that you found?

Read the article by Christakis et al. (2013) that is posted on Moodle: How does this article help you to understand what your results mean? Be sure to use your results to support your conclusions.

  • Name two possible limitations of your study. For example, are there other variables or ways that could have been used to study this issue?

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