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Table 1 Advantages and challenges of self-report measures vs. observational coding for measurement of eating and feeding behaviors

From: Methodological considerations for observational coding of eating and feeding behaviors in children and their families

  Advantage Challenge
Self-report measures • Economical
• Low participant burden
• Data variables easily created
• Able to access beliefs and opinions
• Responses limited by what questions are asked and how they are asked
• Social desirability bias
• Some groups more prone to responses extremes
• Participants may not be aware of the behaviors asked about, or choose not to report.
• Difficult to know if reported behaviors reflect “typical” behaviors or attitudes and opinions.
• Responses may not be in depth
Observational measures • Allows for the creation and observation of actual eating interactions.
• Can assess multiple participants’ interactions
• Able to code quality as well as quantity of behaviors
• Able to ask new questions and test new hypotheses not previously tested in the literature
• Can review video recordings multiple times to examine behaviors and interactions.
• Can control aspects of the environment to test behavioral responses.
• Test a hypothesis in a “real life” setting
• Technical challenges
• Resource intensive – high cost
• Time intensive – data collection, coding and analysis
• Higher participant burden
• Data variables difficult to generate
• Coding is time intensive
• Getting reliable is challenging
• Hawthorne effect
• May not capture “natural” behavior
• Limited to the environment captured in the recording. Results may not be generalizable
• May lack common coding to compare across studies
• Coding schemes are not widely shared or published
• Unable to assess attitudes and opinions which may be influencing behavior
• Variability in behaviors may not represent “typical” behavior for a participant