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Interpretive Assignment

Research Context

This observation was conducted on a parking lot of a popular shopping mall in the proximity of my house. The observation took close to three hours because I thought that this duration would give me the most accurate data. I chose this location because I wanted to observe human behavior during stressful moments, so I conducted my observation during evening rush hours (between 3 pm to 6 pm) when everybody was in a rush to pick a few items in the mall before they went home. I was afforded the best view of the parking lot, the main entrance to the parking lot, the entrance to the mall, and the exit gate from the parking lot. It was an advantageous position because I could clearly observe a few shoppers entering the mall as well as the flow of traffic in the parking lot.


First, I conducted this observation without expecting any specific outcome. I was surprised to see a larger ratio of men to women drivers. However, female companions were the ones who got out of the car to the mall because a large number of male drivers who had female companions stayed in their vehicle. One notable thing I found interesting is that the behaviors of most people were apparent and could be observed easily with very few noted exceptions. As it was rush hour and the parking lot was almost full, I observed several people driving around the parking lot looking for a parking space. The cars were driven at a lower speed; the drivers seemed more careful and focused on their windscreen and, to some lesser extent, the rearview using the rear mirror.

The lower speed of these cars at the parking lot allowed some rare opportunities for social interaction and glances between the drivers. There was a hand, head, and eye signals that drivers showed one another, especially when a parking space was created. There were eye contacts during some signals that allowed cooperation. However, the most striking character was a parking attendant; he was a tall, well-built man who was polite and courteous to motorists. He greeted them with a broad smile that defused all the tension that was present on their faces. Whenever there was a space, he would jovially call the next driver in line using a hand signal. As such, he seemed to command much respect from drivers.

However, as the time approached 6 pm and more cars moved in, there was traffic extending from the entrance to the exit gate. The drivers became impatient, they were hooting and shouting at the attendant, and fewer vehicles were moving out while more were moving in. There was chaos and some drivers left their vehicles wrongly parked and entered the mall, which infuriated the attendant who began shouting and calling idiots those who did not know how to park well. At this time, social interaction was not observed. While some drivers were busy hooting and shouting, others were using their mobile phones, a few got out of their cars to smell a fresh air, but they never integrated with one another. The attendant was so agitated that he almost assaulted a driver who had parked his car in an unauthorized space.

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I shifted my attention to the people with the phones; this theme became apparent as many individuals started using their mobile phones as they waited for the free space at the parking lot. I took keen notice of the man whose car was next to me and near the entrance of the mall. He got out of his car while discussing family issues and personal matters on his cell phone, including other family members and finances. He was subconsciously discussing his intimate part of life in a public space and occasionally advising the person on the other end how to return to work after being without a job for some time. I observed that in general, many people preferred talking on their mobile phone rather than with strangers.


The most interesting fact that I observed was that traffic in parking lots could be a catalyst of anger, violent agitations, and change in behavior and conversations. The first observation that I made in the parking lot during the first few minutes was happy social interactions between the drivers and the parking attendant. However, it changed to violent confrontations towards the end of the second hour of my observation. For instance, the change in the behavior of the parking attendant was a result of frustrations and stress caused by a large number of cars entering a limited parking space, so that he could not cope with it. This example shows that stress and frustrations can be a catalyst of anger and violent agitations. Moreover, the last part of observation proved that people spend quite a bit of their time using their mobile phones. While it might not be true in many cases, it is obvious that the use of the mobile phones increased when the traffic in the parking lot came to a standstill. It means that people prefer talking on their mobile phones rather than interacting with strangers, hence reducing social connections.

In conclusion, during my observation, I was shocked to learn that the behavior of an individual can change abruptly when stress is involved. The observation also showed reduced social connections in the society where people are more connected to their mobile phones than to fellow human beings. In short, the parking lot in the malls should be designed to allow efficient flow of cars to avoid stressful situations that can breed violence.

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