Paper Topic: Human Versus Machine Observation


Observation is a significant part of any kind of research study whether it be a social sciences research or marketing research. Observation is generally defined as the action or process of closely observing or monitoring things. In research, observation is considered as a systematic data collection approach and research use all of their senses to examine and evaluate people in the environment that is natural and naturally occurring situations. There are two types of observations in the marketing research which are known as human observation and machine observation (McDaniel & Gates, 2013).

In this essay, a comparison will be carried out between the human observation and machine observation and different advantages and disadvantages of both of these forms of observations will be discussed.

Human Observation

Human observation can be defined as “When a researcher (human being) himself monitors the people in their naturally occurring environment using all of his senses with a focus on data collection”, it will be considered as human observation. This section discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the human observation.

Advantages of Human Observation

The advantages of human observation can include a number of things as listed below:

  1. Primarily, a human observation can be conducted in any kind of situation and a researcher can observe behaviors in four different types of situations. These situations include when behaviors of people are more insightful, where attitudes are hard to read, when survey cannot measure behaviors accurately and when behaviors are best source of insight(Asnawa, 2013).
  2. A research can carry out any kind of observation including different modes of human observational research. The situation can either be natural or artificial but a human observation would always give accurate results.
  3. Third, accuracy and cost effectiveness is another advantage which can be said as important. Sometimes, humans report more accurate results where machines might not be able to do it. Additionally, the human observation is cost effective as compared to that of machine observation(Baker, 2009).

Disadvantages of Human Observation

Human observation has also some certain disadvantages which can include:

  1. Human error is very primary issue associated with human observation. Sometimes, humans are not in a situation where they can report accurate results and the observed thing is quite different then the reported one. Hence, results are manipulated and it impacts the study.
  2. In artificial situations, the context of the study can be disturbed by existence of a human observer. Recording the target behaviors or events in context of a fabricated situation can be manipulated.

Machine Observation

Machine observation are defined as observations which are carried out using any technical device or apparatus and where the data is collected by monitoring the environment using a machine. This can include a camera or any other machine.

Advantages of Machine Observation

Some of the advantages of the machine observation can include the following things:

  1. Machine observation can be carried out easily as compared to that of human observation. The environment that is monitored using the machine, can be assessed with easy access.
  2. A machine observation does not influence or manipulate a natural environment and there is a possibility that camera gives such results which might not be recorded by human observation.
  3. The most important advantage of the machine observation is that it can record the data in such a manner that it can be observed later on and a researcher does not need to be there, in real time. This makes it easy for the researchers to cross check the data and then to evaluate their findings(Sailer, Pachilova, & Brown, 2013).

Disadvantages of Machine Observation

Also there are certain disadvantages of machine observation which give human observation an edge over it. These are as:

  1. A machine observation can result in a machine error which can destroy the data collection and research process complexly. Contrary to a human error, a machine error is usually of more critical nature and any fault in machine or any error can manipulate the research process significantly. For example, if a researcher is using a camera for collecting data and camera stops working, it would impact research study badly(Hiltz, 2001).
  2. Secondly, machine research is costly as compared to that of human research. A human observation can be carried out without associating any particular costs with it while a machine definitely results in some additional research costs.


Machine and human observation are carried out in different forms of research studies and both are quite different in terms of results and their importance. A human observation can be advantageous in forms of its cost effectiveness and carrying out observation in different situations while a machine observation also has some advantages including its accuracy and easiness. Additionally, both of these observational methods have some disadvantages too. As a general conclusion, it can be said that there is no comparison of human and machine observation and both have their own importance.



Asnawa, Y. (2013). Observation Research: Human, Machine, And Biometric . Cram Study.

Baker, R. S. (2009). Human Observation for Developing Sensitive Learning Environments . Educational Datamining.

Hiltz, M. J. (2001). Marketing Research and Intelligence. In The Marketer’s Handbook: A Checklist Approach (pp. 65-66). Google Books.

McDaniel, C., & Gates, R. (2013). Marketing Research Essentials (8th Edition ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Sailer, K., Pachilova, R., & Brown, C. (2013). HUMAN VERSUS MACHINE: Testing validity and insights of manual and automated data gathering methods in complex buildings. Ninth International Space Syntax Symposium.