The application of physiological observation methods to emotion research

Laura M. Chamberlain*, Amanda J. Broderick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine consumer emotions and the social science and observation measures that can be utilised to capture the emotional experiences of consumers. The paper is not setting out to solve the theoretical debate surrounding emotion research, rather to provide an assessment of methodological options available to researchers to aid their investigation into both the structure and content of the consumer emotional experience, acknowledging both the conscious and subconscious elements of that experience. Design/methodology/approach - A review of a wide range of prior research from the fields of marketing, consumer behaviour, psychology and neuroscience are examined to identify the different observation methods available to marketing researchers in the study of consumer emotion. This review also considers the self report measures available to researchers and identifies the main theoretical debates concerning emotion to provide a comprehensive overview of the issues surrounding the capture of emotional responses in a marketing context and to highlight the benefits that observation methods offer this area of research. Findings - This paper evaluates three observation methods and four widely used self report measures of emotion used in a marketing context. Whilst it is recognised that marketers have shown preference for the use of self report measures in prior research, mainly due to ease of implementation, it is posited that the benefits of observation methodology and the wealth of data that can be obtained using such methods can compliment prior research. In addition, the use of observation methods cannot only enhance our understanding of the consumer emotion experience but also enable us to collaborate with researchers from other fields in order to make progress in understanding emotion. Originality/value - This paper brings perspectives and methods together to provide an up to date consideration of emotion research for marketers. In order to generate valuable research in this area there is an identified need for discussion and implementation of the observation techniques available to marketing researchers working in this field. An evaluation of a variety of methods is undertaken as a point to start discussion or consideration of different observation techniques and how they can be utilised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-216
Number of pages18
JournalQualitative Market Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2007


  • consumer behaviour
  • physiological psychology
  • research methods


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