The eyes of truth are always watching you

How the mechanisms of reading your thoughts have been evolving from a simple questionnaire towards observing-on-the-go.

Surveying people is a widely use method to identify qualitative attitudes toward a product, a concept, or even an idea. How have the used techniques been evolving in terms of sampling and observing? How does everyone become observed? 

A simple form of surveying is a Focus Group where a group of people are asked about their attitude towards a certain concern. Questions are asked in an interactive manner while the moderators are taking notes and recording. Another form of surveying people is asking a larger size of the community using a structured questionnaire. Practitioners of such methods are proud of recording and observing every single word and gesture in action, but are ignoring Reactivity Effect.

Postmodern psychology argues the Reactivity Effect which stimulates individuals to alter their performance or behavior if they are being observed. The closer the observation is, the higher the deterioration in the quality of data and the bias towards the prevailing norms and acceptable practices in the society.

The observation techniques evolve to encounter that effect. Innovative methods have been designed and varied depending on the objectives of the observation. The first evolution wave focuses on hiding the observer from the scene. Mystery shopping is a good example. It models as normal customer performing specific task such as buying or browsing, and then report back the clients' behavior as well as the clerks. Surveillance camera can also help to assess how customers buy their products. The above methods are more suitable to retail products or services. Your hands on goods and your walk in the store's corridors are observed and understood.

The second evolution wave managed to increase the distance between the observer and the scene. It focuses on analyzing the results in order to predict the originating behavior. Innovative methods were adopted. For instance, analyzing the garbage of certain residential area gives solid indicators of the products in use, brand awareness and consumption timing. This method, however, is more applicable to physical products. Another interesting example is graffiti analyzing. Graffiti is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked. Its analysis conveys indicators of the un-told and un-expressed attitude and desires in a certain segment of the society. If you are alone in a toilette, and you graphed an innuendo, somebody else will capture it and cross analyzed it with other incidents and will realize something hidden in the subconscious.

Recent developments in technology have opened a wide space to observe more larger number of people remotely. Our payments over cards trace our spending pattern, timing and type of products and services we acquire. Mobile sets signify the holders' location while the calls log tells whom the holder has called and when.

Internet users are also being observed. The unique interaction the internet space makes the user at ease in expressing his needs and desire. Mouse clicks and cookies vote for the topics of interest, and cascade the issues of concerns. E-trace infrastructure offer comprehensive data. The amount of collected information is absolutely powerful and touches everyone's life. The generated reports are vital to market research companies and opinion making centers.

Never think that you are anonymous on the internet. I will even know that you reading my article. The second part of this article will highlight the reality of the privacy policies and give you a facility to find out what others know about you. Keep your eyes "of truth" opened.

Bassel Nadim

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