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Sociological Observation in a Shopping Mall

There seems to be no action more common than going to a shopping mall. All of the visitors come there with one and only purpose: to shop. However, each person’s perception of the visit can differ drastically. Some suffer from the pangs of choice, while others, on the contrary, improve their mood and enjoy shopping. Besides, the mall’s visitors behave in entirely different ways; an attentive observer can identify patterns that allow him or her to generate ideas for sociological research. To write this report, I spent about half an hour in a shopping center. I came there alone at a busy time of the day to observe people. I aimed to identify as many patterns of behavior as possible that correspond to already studied sociological phenomena. I used non-participant observation, the method where the researcher “plays little or no role in what is being observed” (Retzer and Murphy 2018, 125). Observing people’s behavior and the forms of their interaction with each other is a form of micro-level analysis. In the mall, I saw people of different socio-economic classes and ethnicities; however, middle-class representatives prevailed. The observed could be roughly divided into three groups: “loners,” groups of friends, and couples or families. In each of these groups, I identified some interesting behavioral patterns that I will discuss below.

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It turned out almost impossible to observe how loners participate in social interactions without going into shops. However, I made an observation related to modern ideas about gender-role expectations. I noticed that, while many more women went to cosmetics stores than men, the latter were uncomfortable entering these stores. At the same time, women that had to enter the hardware stores were somewhat less confident. The fact is explainable: in accordance with modern gender norms, interest in cosmetics and makeup is a manifestation of femininity. In their turn, technology and gadgets lie in the realm of masculinity, albeit to a lesser extent.

The groups of friends that I happened to observe were mostly racially homogeneous. Moreover, women were more often in companies, while men were often alone or with a partner/family. This is an illustration of the fact that, in order to achieve goals, women need cooperation more than men. Sometimes they face difficulties in case they have to make a purchase decision alone. Besides, I noticed that groups of friends were less prone to the crowd effect than loners. If the latter, seeing the excitement near a store, most likely went there, the former was carried away by communication and did not pay attention to such things.

While making my observation in the mall, I saw quite a few families; these were mainly parents with children (nuclear families). I observed that children attempted to copy their parents’ behavior; boys were imitating their fathers, and girls were imitating their mothers. A trip to the mall with the whole family is a form of socialization. At the same time, when children from different families tried to communicate with each other, parents quickly bred them in different directions. This is logical: the current situation in the world, developed as a result of the pandemic, is leading to increasing atomization and fragmentation of society. Social interactions have become dangerous, and this is unlikely to change soon.

This report is a result of an observation made in a shopping center at a busy time of the day to observe people. It aimed to identify patterns of behavior that correspond to the existing sociological phenomena. During the half an hour spent in the mall, I saw people of various socio-economic classes and ethnicities. They could be roughly divided into three groups, each of which featured interesting behavioral patterns.


Ritzer, George, and Wendy Wiedenhoft Murphy. 2018. Essentials of sociology. London: SAGE Publications.

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