Re: Experiment and Observation

Kathryn Aegis (
Fri, 27 Sep 1996 16:33:03 +0000

On Sat, 28 Sep 96 David Musick noted:

>If the things we wanted to study
>spontaneously arose and varied themselves in precicely the ways we would if we
>were setting them up as an experiment, then we wouldn't have to experiment at
>all, just observe carefully and theorize. But alas, the world isn't so
>cooperative, so we must go out of our way to set up and vary interesting
>phenomena to observe.

Just a note to say that there are a few techniques set up to study
some phenomena on an observational/encoding basis, chiefly ethology,
which has had many applications in the study of primates and other
group interactions.

I don't know the computer programming involved, but Franz de Waal
describes an elaborate code that allows his researchers to transcribe
the actions of all subjects in a group, which are then entered into a
computer. Then programs are run that will reveal patterns of
interaction or other metapatterns.

It is through the technique of ethology that de Waal revealed the
varied power structures among primate species. In _Peacemaking Among
Primates_, he describes how his researchers gradually uncovered a murder
plot among a group of chimpanzees that resulted in their leader being
assassinated one night.

Kathryn Aegis