The questions that roamed in my mind centered on direct observation and if its validity to understand human behaviors and intentions.
The observation effect changes what you observe. For example, it is not possible to see any object without light hitting the object, and causing it to reflect that light.
Observing objects changes them. Similarly, observing people changes them. The behavior we see is not the original behavior we wanted to study.
Let me explain by my own story. I lectured in a university and observed that one student kept yawning in my lectures. This direct observation printed a bad image of him in my mind. The student observing my unhappy face tried to behave differently by acting differently.
One day I was heading to my office when I heard the student complain to his friend that he does not sleep well because he had to work late at night to support his widowed mother, I felt sorry for my reaction towards him. I understood him better and respected him more.
When we observe indirectly, we learn more and better our understandings.
Indirect observations of behaviors
Suppose you work in a bank and a client asks for a small loan. You grant the loan. The client repays the loans on time. The client asks for a second loan and repays it on time. He kept asking for loans and repaid them on time. This creates a feeling of trust and approving loans for him becomes easier. Suddenly, the same client asks for a big loan. Because you trust him, you approve the loan. You find later that the client left the country the next day he got the loan and never came back. The observed trust in him helped him get the loan.
Direct observation helped the client disguise his real intentions. This obscured the indirect observation of the event of him asking for a big jump in the loan he used to ask for.
Direct observations may reflect light, but not the light of hidden intentions. Direct observation has a blinding effect this is paradoxical, but is true.
Indirect observation scope
If you are a teacher, a medical doctor, or a manager, or whatever it is necessary not to satisfy yourself with direct observation. They might give you false cues.
Couple them with indirect observations to see the real student, the real patient and the real employees. Avoid the blinding effect of direct observations.