Observation: Gender Role and Intimate Couples

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The purpose of this observation assignment was to investigate and interpret the different types of interactions between the individuals and groups present, as well as the environment in which these interactions take place. The various power relationships and sense of hierarchy in addition to the status and authority among the different individuals are also extremely pertinent to this assignment, as the dissection of such interactions and relationships may implicate certain socially constructed gender roles placed on these individuals and society as a whole. The field observation was conducted at the restaurant I-Hop in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The role adopted, was that of participant observation. Group structures and dynamics, as well as overall activity, patterns of behavior, and the duration and timing of such behaviors and interactions were observed and recorded. Sociological concepts pertaining to age, gender, class, and ethnicity were also noted and applied.

I-Hop was chosen as an ideal observation space as it is located in the heart of Harrisonburg in which it is a college town thus making it accessible to local members of the community as well as travelers, visitors, and, or tourists looking for socialization. The immense popularity of I-Hop, thanks to its reputation for fantastic pancakes and other breakfast food along with its twenty-four hour service, attracts a rather diverse crowd, allowing for different cultural backgrounds, specifically college students, to be observed. This restaurant may be assumed to be a moderately priced, or even a fairly inexpensive placed to eat, allowing individuals from a wide range of socio-economic classes to dine. Its bright and modern décor presents a fun, relaxed environment conducive to all ages and groups of individuals, making it a perfect place to observe and record the interactions between, families, friends, and intimate couples. Ultimately, for all of the previously listed reasons, I believed I-Hop to be a place in which quality research-related information could be gathered.

It is not highly unlikely that individuals would feel intimidated or uncomfortable by my observations and note taking. Promoting the rules of ethics pertaining to sociological research, I was prepared to fully explain and disclose the nature and purpose of my study, as well as terminate the observation experiment in the case of an individual's extreme disapproval. My end goal was to ensure a successful, inconspicuous observational study.

The observation took place over a one hundred and twenty minute period. This time period allowed me enough time to view individuals as they first entered the restaurant, order their food, eat, socialize, pay the bill, and then finally leave. My observations and analysis allowed me to make assumptions about the different sociological mechanisms and roles at play. Overall, my conclusions projected a general picture of the social aspects that occur in a densely populated restaurant.

As already stated, the research methodology of this study was that of observation. Observational studies as such are generally centered on deductive reasoning, producing qualitative data that demonstrates a profound understanding of the phenomenon under investigation from the actor's point of view. For this study the role of participant observation has been assigned, thus trying to gain entry into a setting without disturbing the routine behavior of others (Macionis, 2010, p 28). The observation site was the restaurant I-Hop. To conduct and record the observations during the two-hour experiment a pen and paper were used as the basic tools.

The seemingly intimate couples observed were quite interesting. Instead of being seated opposite each other, most couples chose to sit next to each other so as to be within closer proximity of one another. The couples that did sit opposite each other spent much of their time bent over or leaning across the table so as to...
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