What you see is what you get
Observation Research Defined
Observation research can be defined as the
systematic process of recording the
behavioral patterns of people, objects, and
occurrences without questioning or
communicating with them.
People watching people Observers stationed in supermarkets watch
consumers select frozen Mexican dinners.
The purpose is to see how much comparison
shopping people do at the point of purchase.
People watching Observer stationed at an intersection counts
phenomena traffic moving in various directions.
Machines watching Move or videotape cameras record behavior
people as in people-watching-people example.
Machines watching Traffic-counting machines monitor traffic
What can be observed
Human behaviour and physical actions
Spatial relations and locations
Verbal or pictorial records
WHAT CAN BE OBSERVED
Human behavior or physical Shoppers movement
action pattern in a store
Verbal behavior Statements made by
airline travelers who wait
Expressive behavior Facial expressions, tone of
voice, and other form of
WHAT CAN BE OBSERVED
Spatial relations How close visitors at an
and locations art museum stand to paintings
Temporal patterns How long fast-food customers
wait for their order to be served
Physical objects What brand name items are
stored in consumers’ pantries
Verbal and Pictorial Bar codes on product packages
– Natural versus contrived situations.
– Visible/open versus disguised/hidden
– Structured versus unstructured
– Human versus machine observation.
– Direct versus indirect observation.
Advantages and Disadvantages of
– Observation research provides the
researcher the opportunity to watch what
people actually do rather than relying on
reports of what they say they do.
– This approach can avoid much of the
biasing factors caused by the interviewer
and question structure associated with the
•Communication with respondent is not necessary
•Data without distortions due to self-report (e.g.: without social
•No need to rely on respondents memory
•Nonverbal behavior data may be obtained
•Certain data may be obtained more quickly
•Environmental conditions may be recorded
•May be combined with other methods to provide supplemental
– Only behavior and physical personal
characteristics can usually be examined.
The researcher does not learn about
motives, attitudes, intentions, or feelings.
– Observation research can be time
consuming and costly if the observed
behavior occurs rather infrequently.
– Interpretation of data may be a problem
– Possible invasion of privacy
Who sees what where…
Humans observing Humans
– People employed to pose as consumers
and shop at the employer’s competitors to
compare prices, displays, and the like.
One-Way Mirror Observations
– The practice of watching unseen from
behind a one-way mirror.
– Drawings that record the footsteps of a
shopper through a store.
– Recording the decision time necessary to
make a choice between two alternatives.
Humans observing Physical
–A technique used to study written material
(advertising copy, newspapers, minutes) by
breaking it into meaningful units, using
carefully applied rules.
Physical trace evidence
–Study of visible signs of past
–The examination and verification of the sales of
Machine Observing People
– A machine that measures the rhythmic
fluctuations in electrical potential of the
brain and can be used to measure an
individual’s emotional response to a
Eye tracking monitors
– Record how subject reads or views
– Observes and records changes in the
diameter of subjects pupils which changes
as a result of cognitive processing
– Measures Galvanic Skin Response (GSR)-
involuntary changes in the electrical
resistance of the skin
Voice pitch analysis
– Measures emotional reactions through
physiological changes in voice
Machine Observing Phenomenon
– Machines used to measure vehicular flow
over a particular stretch of roadway.
– A microwave computerized rating system
that transmits demographic information
overnight to measure national TV
Scanner based research
– A system for gathering information from a
single group of respondents by
continuously monitoring the advertising,
sales, promotion, and pricing they are
exposed to and the things they buy.