People Watching in Sociological Terms

From the heading of this blog post you can tell it is not one of my usual articles you will normally find on my blog.

You can imagine my face when I discovered I had to write a 500 word blog post for my Sociology class Рcomplete confusion with a hint of curiosity. I wondered where it was going and why exactly we had to write a blog post. But, upon further thought of this task I have come to love the idea. I mean, how often do we read articles on our favourite blog-site which educate us? And no, the latest gossip on our favourite celebrity is not education, it is mere gossip.

But the main question of today’s blog post is this: Does people watching¬†really¬†benefit researchers?

My answer is simple: yes.

People watching is a task I¬†love¬†to do. It is something I have done since I was a child, something which I never realised and something I took for granted up until my older years, but something I¬†always¬†do when I am out and about. I mean think about it; when you are out in town or waiting for a friend or standing idle in your workplace; what do you do? Your eyes wander, your mind mutes and you begin observing those around you. Note how that woman subconsciously blows on the steam every time she raises her coffee-cup to her lips; see how the boy in the corner continually checks his watch and glances around him. These examples are perhaps amateur in comparison to the real things we observe in everyday life; but they are instances in which we take for granted when we ourselves participate in the common term ‘people watching’.


People watching is an excellent thing to do and I encourage you to try it out the next time you are out in public with little to do or a few moments to spare. Simply slip your mobile phone back into your pocket and take a few moments out to appreciate the nature of human behaviour around you. It allows us a little insight to the lives and attitudes of those around us; those people we block out when we are busy living our own lives, but people we cross paths with unintentionally all the same.

However this blog post is not exactly about ‘people watching’ but the more scientific side of it, called ‘participant observation’. This method is used by sociological researchers in order to gain insight into the way individuals behave in society. Personally this is my favourite research method as I enjoy it already without having to consider it in it’s scientific terms. Participant Observation allows researchers the chance to observe individuals in their ‘natural habitat’ without the formalities of an interview room or experiment lab. The results ‘produced’ from Participant Observation need not be deduced in any sense, for they are purely natural and cannot lie as they are initially produced in the most natural of environments – the participant’s own life. There are few costs for this research method as there is no need to enlist participants as such because there is a world full of people living their lives. The list of benefits towards this method are endless and most of which are aforementioned; results do not lie as participants are naturally acting and behaving in their everyday lives.

As you can probably tell, this post is a little over 500 words and is nearing the 600 mark, but perhaps this stands to show how passionate I am about ‘participant observation’ or ‘people watching’ and how it is one of the most honest form of research scientists can ever gain.

*Picture taken from Google Images showing ‘participant observation’ from


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