Unobtrusive Measures Start Assignment

The average person throws away 2.1 pounds of garbage a day, much of it paper and plastic (Rathje and Murphy 1992). What would people find if they systematically rooted through your garbage? No doubt lots of paper, some food wrappings, some leftover food, and maybe some worn-out clothes or empty printer cartridges. How much evidence of fast-food consumption would they find? What about fresh vegetables, or milk, or soda? What might they be able to tell about your study h abits7 Your work habits? Your choices in recreation? That’s exactly what William Rathje, an archaeologist and director of the Garbage Project at the University of Arizona, does. Project researchers systematically identify and analyze what households in Tucson, Arizona, throw away. They also examine landfills, sometimes digging down deep to analyze trash from earlier decades. By systematically analyzing household garb age, they have learned a great deal about people’s habits and behaviors especially those that people don’t necessarily want to talk about, like drinking alcohol or eating processed foods (Rathje 1992, 1993). They have even devised ways to estimate the size and composition of the population based on garbage. For example, they can fairly reliably tell how many babies live in a given neighborhood by the number of diapers they find in the trash. The work of the Garbage Project is a good example of using unobtrusive measures to study human behavior. Unobtrusive measures involve any form of studying human behavior that does not rely on asking people directly (such as interviewing) or on observing people (such as doing
participant observation). These may include studying human physical traces, as the Garbage Project does, or analyzing written records and documents, the media (like television or radio) , or the Internet