How do we study primates?
How do we study primates?
Field primatologists face a number of challenges. He or she must locate subjects, habituate them to the presence of an observer without disrupting their natural behavior, and learn to recognize individual animals from amongst a group. Only then can the primatologist begin “data collection” — making behavioral observations in a systematic way. There are two problems: 1) you need to maintain objectivity as an observer and not just watch the most “interesting” animal, and 2) it is impossible to see and record everything, particularly if many primates are together in a group. Therefore, all primatologists use SAMPLING techniques to record their data. There are different types of sampling methods primatologists employ.
For this assignment, we will use Scan Sampling. Based upon this technique, an animal’s observed behaviors are recorded at pre-selected moments in time (e.g., every 30 seconds). Instantaneous or scan sampling is best achieved with a sample interval time as short as possible, and with behaviors that are very easily identified. It is recommended that the observer create a list of possible behaviors, based upon research, prior to beginning their fieldwork. When the observer is well prepared, this is an excellent method for collecting a large amount of data on a group of animals.
It is only by collecting data systematically in this way that primatologists can describe and summarize the complex behaviors of primates. Observation sampling lets primatologists measure natural behavior and later address interesting comparative questions, such as:
? How do primates spend their time? Do activity patterns vary with age or sex?
? Are individuals equal in their social group, or is there a social ranking?
? Do males and females compete for mates differently?
? Do young animals learn anything while they are playing?
? Are the young learning from adult males and females?
Assignment: Primatology Term Paper
The goal of this assignment is to study humans the way a primatologist works in the field and to help you look at humans from a different perspective.
Pretend that you are a primatologist from another planet. You have just arrived on earth, and have taken the physical form of a student. You are amazed by life among college students, and you are sure that it must be different from the lives of other people. But most of your ideas about life off-campus come from either watching TV, or from other strange settings, like the Starbucks or the mall. You begin to ask yourself, what is human behavior really like?
Develop a comparative hypothesis about a simple behavioral question, and test it by collecting data on samples of these earthlings. Note: YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND ENGLISH… you will have to interpret human behavior on the basis of what you see people doing, not on what you hear them say. Of course, actions often speak louder than words. Here are some example hypotheses. You can use one of these, or develop your own. Pick a narrow question about a common behavior that will be easy for you to observe. Note that each of these hypotheses divides humans into two groups to compare for the purpose of your study.
? Students eat different things than other people do.
? Males and females behave differently at parties.
? Younger students behave differently than older fans at football games.
? TV sitcoms are an accurate portrayal of normal human society.
? Males and females behave differently when watching sports together.
? You can recognize the relative social rank of males in a social group through their behavioral interactions, but it is more difficult to determine the social rank of females.
? Young people who go to shopping malls spend less time actually shopping than older people do.
Once you have chosen a question, design your field study to sample the human behavior in order to test your hypothesis. Since your hypothesis is comparative, you will need to collect two samples of data. For example, if your hypothesis is “do males and females eat different types of food” you will need to pick a study site where students are feeding (e.g. in a dining hall) and choose a way to systematically observe both males and females feeding. Make your observations at timed intervals, using the “scan sampling” method. Be sure to discuss in your paper how you chose the people in your study. Your observations should be for one hour and the time interval is 2 minutes.
Summarize your data results and evaluate your hypothesis on the basis of the data you collected. You should discuss any patterns you see in the data, and how they might relate to your original hypothesis. Did you discover anything about these earthlings that surprised you, or did your preconception match your results? Do your results “make sense” to you? Explain your reasoning.
Evaluate your study. If you had to investigate the same question again, would you do it the same way, or would you use a different scientific approach? Why? Was it difficult to approach humans as “animals” to be observed? Why? Do you think your results were biased in any way? Do you think a different primatologist would have recorded exactly the same observations you did? Why?
The completed paper must be typed and include:
? Introduction (1/2 page): state your hypothesis, why you think it is an interesting question, and describe the methods you used to collect data to evaluate your hypothesis (where you decided to collect data, why you chose the location and time for observations, etc.)
? Results (1/2 – 1 page): what you leaned from your observations and the benefit of utilizing the scan sampling technique.
? Discussion and Conclusions (1-2 pages): evaluate your hypothesis in light of your research findings and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your study design
? Appendix: your data collection sheets (paper sheets, handwritten, raw data)
Note: Have fun collecting data and be sure to plan ahead. Design your study carefully. Try to report your results in a neat and interesting way, and please pay attention to details.
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