HOME

TheInfoList




Observationhttps://www.dictionary.com/ is the active acquisition of
information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whether it can be demonstrated to c ...

information
from a
primary source In the study of history History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its populatio ...

primary source
. In living beings, observation employs the
sense A sense is a biological system used by an organism for sensation, the process of gathering information about the world and responding to Stimulus (physiology), stimuli. (For example, in the human body, the brain receives signals from the senses ...

sense
s. In
science Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of ...

science
, observation can also involve the
perception Perception (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" o ...

perception
and recording of
data Data (; ) are individual facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whether it can be demonstrated to correspond to experience. Standard reference works are often used ...
via the use of
scientific instrument A scientific instrument is a device or tool used for scientific purposes, including the study of both natural phenomena and theoretical research. History Historically, the definition of a scientific instrument has varied, based on usage, laws, and ...
s. The term may also refer to any data collected during the scientific activity. Observations can be qualitative, that is, only the absence or presence of a property is noted, or quantitative if a numerical value is attached to the observed
phenomenon A phenomenon (; plural phenomena) is an observable In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies ma ...
by
counting Counting is the process of determining the number of Element (mathematics), elements of a finite set of objects, i.e., determining the size (mathematics), size of a set. The traditional way of counting consists of continually increasing a (mental ...
or
measuring Measurement is the quantification of attributes of an object or event, which can be used to compare with other objects or events. The scope and application of measurement are dependent on the context and discipline. In natural science Natu ...

measuring
.


Science

The
scientific method The scientific method is an empirical Empirical evidence for a proposition is evidence, i.e. what supports or counters this proposition, that is constituted by or accessible to sense experience or experimental procedure. Empirical evidence ...

scientific method
requires observations of
natural phenomena Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and ...
to formulate and test
hypotheses A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a proposed explanation An explanation is a set of statements usually constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies the causes, context Context may refer to: * Context (language use), the rel ...
. It consists of the following steps: # Ask a
question A question is an utterance which typically functions as a request for information, which is expected to be provided in the form of an answer. Questions can thus be understood as a kind of illocutionary act The concept of illocutionary acts was i ...

question
about a natural
phenomenon A phenomenon (; plural phenomena) is an observable In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies ma ...
# Make observations of the phenomenon # Formulate a
hypothesis A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a proposed explanation An explanation is a set of statements usually constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies the causes, context Context may refer to: * Context (language use), the rel ...
that tentatively answers the question # Predict logical, observable consequences of the hypothesis that have not yet been investigated # Test the hypothesis' predictions by an
experiment An experiment is a procedure carried out to support or refute a hypothesis, or determine the efficacy or likelihood of something previously untried. Experiments provide insight into Causality, cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome oc ...

experiment
,
observational study In fields such as epidemiology Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution (who, when, and where), patterns and risk factor, determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations. It is a cornerstone of public hea ...
,
field study Field research, field studies, or fieldwork is the collection of raw data outside a laboratory A laboratory (, ; colloquially lab) is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which science, scientific or technological researc ...

field study
, or
simulation A simulation is the imitation of the operation of a real-world process or system over time. Simulations require the use of models; the model represents the key characteristics or behaviors of the selected system or process, whereas the simulat ...

simulation
# Draw a conclusion from
data Data (; ) are individual facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whether it can be demonstrated to correspond to experience. Standard reference works are often used ...

data
gathered in the experiment, or revise the hypothesis or form a new one and repeat the process # Write a descriptive method of observation and the
result A result (also called upshot) is the final consequence of a sequence In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes a ...

result
s or conclusions reached # Have peers with experience researching the same phenomenon
evaluate Evaluation is a systematic determination of a subject's merit, worth and significance, using criteria governed by a set of Standardization, standards. It can assist an organization, program, design, project or any other intervention or initiative ...
the results Observations play a role in the second and fifth steps of the scientific method. However, the need for
reproducibility Reproducibility, also known as replicability and repeatability, is a major principle underpinning the scientific method The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the develop ...
requires that observations by different observers can be comparable. Human
sense A sense is a biological system used by an organism for sensation, the process of gathering information about the world and responding to Stimulus (physiology), stimuli. (For example, in the human body, the brain receives signals from the senses ...

sense
impressions are
subjective Subjective may refer to: * Subjectivity, a subject's personal perspective, feelings, beliefs, desires or discovery, as opposed to those made from an independent, objective, point of view ** Subjective experience, the subjective quality of consciou ...
and qualitative, making them difficult to record or compare. The use of
measurement Measurement is the quantification (science), quantification of variable and attribute (research), attributes of an object or event, which can be used to compare with other objects or events. The scope and application of measurement are dependen ...

measurement
was developed to allow recording and comparison of observations made at different times and places, by different people. The measurement consists of using observation to compare the phenomenon being observed to a standard unit. The standard unit can be an artifact, process, or definition which can be duplicated or shared by all observers. In measurement, the number of standard units which is equal to the observation is counted. Measurement reduces an observation to a number that can be recorded, and two observations which result in the same number are equal within the
resolution Resolution(s) may refer to: Common meanings * Resolution (debate), the statement which is debated in policy debate * Resolution (law), a written motion adopted by a deliberative body * New Year's resolution, a commitment that an individual make ...

resolution
of the process. Human senses are limited and subject to errors in perception, such as
optical illusion Within visual perception Visual perception is the ability to interpret the surrounding environment (biophysical), environment through photopic vision (daytime vision), color vision, scotopic vision (night vision), and mesopic vision (twil ...

optical illusion
s.
Scientific instrument A scientific instrument is a device or tool used for scientific purposes, including the study of both natural phenomena and theoretical research. History Historically, the definition of a scientific instrument has varied, based on usage, laws, and ...
s were developed to aid human abilities of observation, such as
weighing scale A scale or balance is a device to measure weight or mass. These are also known as mass scales, weight scales, mass balances, and weight balances. The traditional scale consists of two plates or bowls suspended at equal distances from a Lever ...

weighing scale
s,
clock A clock or a timepiece is a device used to measure and indicate time Time is the continued sequence of existence and event (philosophy), events that occurs in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past ...

clock
s,
telescope A telescope is an optical instrument An optical instrument (or "optic" for short) is a device that processes light waves (or photons), either to enhance an image for viewing or to analyze and determine their characteristic properties. Common ...

telescope
s,
microscope A microscope (from grc, μικρός ''mikrós'' 'small' and ''skopeîn'' 'to look (at); examine, inspect') is a laboratory instrument used to examine objects that are too small to be seen by the naked eye Naked eye, also called bare ...

microscope
s,
thermometer (mercury-in-glass thermometer) for measurement of room temperature. A thermometer is a device that temperature measurement, measures temperature or a temperature gradient A temperature gradient is a physical quantity that describes in which dir ...

thermometer
s,
camera A camera is an optical Optics is the branch of physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and t ...

camera
s, and
tape recorder An audio tape recorder, also known as a tape deck, tape player or tape machine or simply a tape recorder, is a sound recording and reproduction Sound recording and reproduction is an electrical Electricity is the set of physical ...
s, and also translate into perceptible form events that are unobservable by the senses, such as indicator dyes,
voltmeter A voltmeter is an instrument used for measuring electric potential The electric potential (also called the ''electric field potential'', potential drop, the electrostatic potential) is defined as the amount of work Work may refer to: * ...

voltmeter
s,
spectrometer A spectrometer () is a scientific instrument used to separate and measure Spectrum, spectral components of a physical phenomenon. Spectrometer is a broad term often used to describe instruments that measure a continuous variable of a phenomenon ...

spectrometer
s,
infrared camera A thermographic camera (also called an infrared camera or thermal imaging camera, thermal camera or thermal imager) is a device that creates an image using infrared Infrared (IR), sometimes called infrared light, is electromagnetic radiation ...
s,
oscilloscope An oscilloscope, previously called an oscillograph, and informally known as a scope or o-scope, CRO (for cathode-ray oscilloscope), or DSO (for the more modern digital storage oscilloscope A digital storage oscilloscope (DSO) is an oscillosco ...

oscilloscope
s,
interferometer . The two light rays with a common source combine at the half-silvered mirror to reach the detector. They may either interfere constructively (strengthening in intensity) if their light waves arrive in phase, or interfere destructively (weakening i ...

interferometer
s,
geiger counter A Geiger counter (also known as a Geiger–Müller counter) is an electronic instrument used for detecting and measuring ionizing radiation Ionizing radiation (or ionising radiation), including nuclear radiation, consists of subatomic particles o ...

geiger counter
s, and
radio receiver In radio, radio communications, a radio receiver, also known as a receiver, a wireless, or simply a radio, is an electronic device that receives radio waves and converts the information carried by them to a usable form. It is used with an anten ...

radio receiver
s. One problem encountered throughout scientific fields is that the observation may affect the process being observed, resulting in a different outcome than if the process was unobserved. This is called the ''
observer effect "Observer Effect" is the eleventh episode of the Star Trek: Enterprise (season 4), fourth season of the American science fiction television series ''Star Trek: Enterprise'' and the eighty-eighth overall. It was first aired on January 21, 2005, on ...
''. For example, it is not normally possible to check the air pressure in an automobile tire without letting out some of the air, thereby changing the pressure. However, in most fields of science, it is possible to reduce the effects of observation to insignificance by using better instruments. Considered as a physical process itself, all forms of observation (human or instrumental) involve
amplification
amplification
and are thus thermodynamically
irreversible processes In science, a thermodynamic processes, process that is not Reversible process (thermodynamics), reversible is called irreversible. This concept arises frequently in thermodynamics. In thermodynamics, a change in the thermodynamic state of a syste ...
, increasing
entropy Entropy is a scientific concept as well as a measurable physical property that is most commonly associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty. The term and the concept are used in diverse fields, from classical thermodynamic ...

entropy
.


Paradoxes

In some specific fields of science, the results of observation differ depending on factors that are not important in everyday observation. These are usually illustrated with "
paradox A paradox is a logically self-contradictory statement or a statement that runs contrary to one's expectation. It is a statement that, despite apparently valid reasoning from true premises, leads to a seemingly self-contradictory or a logically u ...

paradox
es" in which an event appears different when observed from two different points of view, seeming to violate "common sense". * Relativity: In
relativistic physics In physics, relativistic mechanics refers to mechanics compatible with special relativity (SR) and general relativity (GR). It provides a non-quantum mechanics, quantum mechanical description of a system of particles, or of a fluid, in cases where ...
which deals with velocities close to the
speed of light The speed of light in vacuum A vacuum is a space Space is the boundless three-dimensional Three-dimensional space (also: 3-space or, rarely, tri-dimensional space) is a geometric setting in which three values (called paramet ...
, it is found that different observers may observe different values for the length, time rates, mass, and many other properties of an object, depending on the observer's velocity relative to the object. For example, in the
twin paradox In physics, the twin paradox is a thought experiment in special relativity involving identical twins, one of whom makes a journey into space in a high-speed rocket and returns home to find that the twin who remained on Earth has aged more. Thi ...

twin paradox
one twin goes on a trip near the speed of light and comes home younger than the twin who stayed at home. This is not a paradox: time passes at a slower rate when measured from a frame moving concerning the object. In relativistic physics, an observation must always be qualified by specifying the state of motion of the observer, its
reference frame In physics, a frame of reference (or reference frame) consists of an abstract coordinate system In geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ''wikt:γῆ, geo-'' "earth", ''wikt:μέτρον, -metron'' "measurement") is, wi ...

reference frame
. * Quantum mechanics: In
quantum mechanics Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory A theory is a reason, rational type of abstraction, abstract thinking about a phenomenon, or the results of such thinking. The process of contemplative and rational thinking is often associated with ...
, which deals with the behavior of very small objects, it is not possible to observe a system without changing the system, and the "observer" must be considered part of the
system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundaries, structure and purp ...

system
being observed. In isolation, quantum objects are represented by a
wave function A wave function in quantum physics Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory A theory is a rational Rationality is the quality or state of being rational – that is, being based on or agreeable to reason Reason is the capacity ...

wave function
which often exists in a superposition or mixture of different
states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
. However, when an observation is made to determine the actual location or state of the object, it always finds the object in a single state, not a "mixture". The interaction of the observation process appears to "
collapse Collapse or its variants may refer to: Concepts * Collapse (structural) * Collapse (topology), a mathematical concept * Collapsing manifold * Collapse, the action of collapsing or telescoping objects * Ecosystem collapse An ecosystem ...
" the wave function into a single state. So any interaction between an isolated wave function and the external world that results in this wave function collapse is called an ''observation'' or ''measurement'', whether or not it is part of a deliberate observation process.


Biases

The human senses do not function like a video
camcorder A camcorder is an electronic device originally combining a video camera A video camera is a camera A camera is an optical Optics is the branch of physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗ ...

camcorder
, impartially recording all observations. Human perception occurs by a complex, unconscious process of
abstraction Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, mak ...

abstraction
, in which certain details of the incoming sense data are noticed and remembered, and the rest is forgotten. What is kept and what is thrown away depends on an internal model or representation of the world, called by psychologists a ''
schema The word schema comes from the Greek word ('), which means ''shape'', or more generally, ''plan''. The plural is ('). In English, both ''schemas'' and ''schemata'' are used as plural forms. Schema may refer to: Science and technology * SCHEMA ...
'', that is built up over our entire lives. The data is fitted into this schema. Later when events are remembered, memory gaps may even be filled by "plausible" data the mind makes up to fit the model; this is called ''
reconstructive memory Reconstructive memory is a theory of memory recall, in which the act of remembering is influenced by various other cognitive processes including perception, imagination, semantic memory Semantic memory is one of the two types of explicit memo ...
''. How much attention the various perceived data are given depends on an internal value system, which judges how important it is to the individual. Thus two people can view the same event and come away with entirely different perceptions of it, even disagreeing about simple facts. This is why
eyewitness testimony Eyewitness testimony is the account a bystander or victim gives in the courtroom, describing what that person observed that occurred during the specific incident under investigation. Ideally this recollection of events is detailed; however, this is ...
is notoriously unreliable. Several of the more important ways observations can be affected by human psychology are given below.


Confirmation bias

Human observations are biased toward confirming the observer's conscious and unconscious expectations and view of the world; we "''see what we expect to see''". In psychology, this is called
confirmation bias Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psycholo ...
. Since the object of scientific research is the
discovery Discovery may refer to: * Discovery (observation) Discovery is the act of detecting something new, or something previously unrecognized as meaningful. With reference to sciences and academic disciplines An academic discipline or academic fi ...
of new phenomena, this bias can and has caused new discoveries to be overlooked; one example is the discovery of
x-ray An X-ray, or, much less commonly, X-radiation, is a penetrating form of high-energy electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Moti ...

x-ray
s. It can also result in erroneous scientific support for widely held cultural myths, on the other hand, as in the
scientific racism Scientific racism, sometimes termed biological racism, is the pseudoscientific Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that claim to be both scientific and factual but are incompatible with the scientific method. Pseu ...
that supported ideas of racial superiority in the early 20th century. Correct scientific technique emphasizes careful recording of observations, separating experimental observations from the conclusions drawn from them, and techniques such as
blind Blind may refer to: * The state of Visual impairment, blindness, being unable to see * A window blind, a covering for a window Blind may also refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * Blind (2007 film), ''Blind'' (2007 film), a 2007 Dut ...
or double blind experiments, to minimize observational bias.


Processing bias

Modern scientific instruments can extensively process "observations" before they are presented to the human senses, and particularly with computerized instruments, there is sometimes a question as to where in the data processing chain "observing" ends and "drawing conclusions" begins. This has recently become an issue with digitally enhanced images published as experimental data in
papers Paper is a thin, flat material produced by the compression of fibres. Paper(s) or The Paper may also refer to: Publishing and academia * Newspaper, a periodical publication * Paper (magazine), ''Paper'' (magazine), an American monthly fashion and ...
in
scientific journal In academic publishing Academic publishing is the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in academic journal articles, books or thesis' form. The part of academic written ...
s. The images are enhanced to bring out features that the researcher wants to emphasize, but this also has the effect of supporting the researcher's conclusions. This is a form of bias that is difficult to quantify. Some
scientific journal In academic publishing Academic publishing is the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in academic journal articles, books or thesis' form. The part of academic written ...
s have begun to set detailed standards for what types of
image processing Digital image processing is the use of a digital computer A computer is a machine A machine is a man-made device that uses power to apply forces and control movement to perform an action. Machines can be driven by animals and people ...
are allowed in research results. Computerized instruments often keep a copy of the "raw data" from sensors before processing, which is the ultimate defense against processing bias, and similarly, scientific standards require preservation of the original unenhanced "raw" versions of images used as research data.


Philosophy

Observation in
philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real o ...

philosophical
terms is the process of filtering
information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whether it can be demonstrated to c ...

information
through the thought process. Input is received via
hearing Hearing, or auditory perception, is the ability to perceive sounds In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid. In human physiology and psychology, ...
,
sight Visual perception is the ability to interpret the surrounding environment Environment most often refers to: __NOTOC__ * Natural environment, all living and non-living things occurring naturally * Biophysical environment, the physical and biol ...
, smell,
taste The gustatory system or sense of taste is the sensory system The sensory nervous system is a part of the nervous system In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, ph ...

taste
, or
touch The somatosensory system is a part of the sensory nervous system The sensory nervous system is a part of the nervous system In biology, the classical doctrine of the nervous system determines that it is a Complex system, highly comple ...
and then analyzed through either rational or irrational thought. For example, let us suppose that an observer ''sees'' a parent beat their child and consequently may observe that such an action is either good or bad. Deductions about what behaviors are good or bad may be based on preferences about building relationships, or the study of the consequences resulting from the observed behavior. Over time, impressions stored in the consciousness about many, together with the resulting relationships and consequences, permit the individual to build a construct about the moral implications of behavior.


See also

*
Deixis In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...

Deixis
*
Introspection Introspection is the examination of one's own conscious , an English Paracelsian Paracelsianism (also Paracelsism; German: ') was an early modern History of medicine, medical movement based on the theories and therapies of Paracelsus. It de ...
*
List of cognitive biases Cognitive bias A cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm (philosophy), norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own "subjective reality" from their perception of the input. An individual's construction of rea ...
*
Metaphysics of presence The concept of the metaphysics of presence is an important consideration in deconstruction Deconstruction is an approach to understanding the relationship between text and meaning. It was originated by the philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930–2 ...
*
Naturalistic observation Naturalistic observation, sometimes referred to as fieldwork Field research, field studies, or fieldwork is the empirical research, collection of raw data outside a laboratory, library, or workplace setting. The approaches and methods used in ...
* Observation unit *
Observational astronomy Observation is the active acquisition of information from a primary source. In living beings, observation employs the senses. In science, observation can also involve the perception and recording of data (information), data via the use of scienti ...
*
Observational error Observational error (or measurement error) is the difference between a measured value of a quantity and its true value.Dodge, Y. (2003) ''The Oxford Dictionary of Statistical Terms'', OUP. In statistics Statistics is the discipline that co ...
*
Observational learning Observational learning is learning that occurs through observing the behavior of others. It is a form of social learning which takes various forms, based on various processes. In humans, this form of learning seems to not need reinforcement to o ...
*
Observational study In fields such as epidemiology Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution (who, when, and where), patterns and risk factor, determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations. It is a cornerstone of public hea ...
* Observable quantity * Observations and Measurements *
Observatory An observatory is a location used for observing terrestrial, marine, or celestial events. Astronomy, climatology/meteorology, geophysics, geophysical, oceanography and volcanology are examples of disciplines for which observatories have been cons ...

Observatory
*
Observer effect "Observer Effect" is the eleventh episode of the Star Trek: Enterprise (season 4), fourth season of the American science fiction television series ''Star Trek: Enterprise'' and the eighty-eighth overall. It was first aired on January 21, 2005, on ...
*
Present The present (or here and now) is the time that is associated with the events perception, perceived directly and in the first time, not as a recollection (perceived more than once) or a speculation (predicted, hypothesis, uncertain). It is a per ...

Present
*
Self The self is an individual person as the object of its own reflective consciousness Consciousness, at its simplest, is or of internal and external existence. Despite millennia of analyses, definitions, explanations and debates by philosoph ...

Self
* Theory ladenness *
Uncertainty principle In quantum mechanics Quantum mechanics is a fundamental Scientific theory, theory in physics that provides a description of the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. It is the foundation of all quant ...

Uncertainty principle
*
UnobservableAn unobservable (also called impalpable) is an entity whose existence, nature, properties, qualities or relations are not directly observable by humans. In philosophy of science Philosophy of science is a branch of philosophy concerned with th ...


References

{{philosophy of science Aptitude Cognition Epistemology of science Experiments Knowledge Metaphysics of mind Ontology Perception Philosophy of mind Philosophy of science
Scientific method A scientific method is a sequence or collection of processes that are considered characteristic of scientific investigation and the acquisition of new scientific knowledge based upon physical evidence Evidence, broadly construed, is anything p ...
Sources of knowledge