What is Observation?

Scientifically, observation can be said to be a process whereby data is gathered. It is a factual process where all the tools of observation are employed to give reasonable and factual results. Observation is basically the process of being watchful to gain data using one’s senses. This process is greatly influenced by the attitude, experience, and knowledge of the observing individual and as a result of this, observations would most likely differ from individual to individual. Observation requires a great deal of attention in order to get the facts and data needed.

What is Inference?

Scientifically, inference can be said to be a process whereby decisions are taken regarding data that has already been gathered. This process is not a factual one, as a matter of fact, it is more of an explanation that is given regarding the data that has been collected obviously through the process of observation. It is the conclusion that is drawn up, it is an assumption, a guess that is made based on what one has observed. 

This brings us to the fact that inference is completely reliant on observation. To make a proper inference, one would need to have data from observation so it is safe to say that without adequate data collected from observation, a proper inference cannot be made. Inference is necessary when it comes to making evaluations for different circumstances and making reliable decisions.

Observation versus Inference Explained

While both of these concepts are interconnected, it does remain that they are quite distinctly different from each other and cannot be interchanged. Ever so often, we find that people make the mistake of lumping the concept of observation and inference together, and this is wrong. The difference between these concepts is clear even though they are very closely related and they work together.

When making the comparison of observation versus inference, it is important to know that these concepts work with each other, one because of the other, however, they do not have the same functions independently. Where observation is strictly factual and has scientific backing to it and its methodology, inference is completely based on assumption and what a person can conclude from data that has already been gathered from observation. This process is not entirely what one would refer to as a science as it is not backed up by facts.

Making the observation versus inference comparison is something that is very often done, as it is very easy to cross the line between observation and inference; however, as often as this comparison is drawn, it is also made clear that these concepts cannot function independently of each other even though they are different from each other. 

The uniqueness of their co-dependent relationship lies in their individual functionalities, and this is what makes them reliant on each other. Basically speaking, without making an observation, one cannot make an inference, and without making an inference, a conclusion cannot be made on the results of observation.

What It Means to You

Understanding observation versus inference and its effect on you makes the most sense when you explore your personal and professional relationships. How you react to other people’s actions are often based on this principle. 

When you are learning new behaviors or are in new relationships, or even experiencing something in a current relationship, old memories may interfere. When you let your past demons, so to speak, sneak up on you and interfere with current attitudes, behaviors, and thoughts in relation to another person, you are not allowing yourself (or the other person) to live their authentic truth. Therefore, you cannot let past circumstances dictate how you feel about someone else now.

The cognitive approach to psychology involves studying and observing people’s behavior to determine their unique mental processes at that given moment.

According to Indiana University experts, “inference means to figure out what happened from the traces or effects of what happened.”

When you make an inference about someone, you’re drawing a conclusion about that person based on their observed behavior. The problem with this is that the underlying thinking behind this behavior is still unknown. It takes a mental health professional to uncover that depth of insight. So the next time you make an inference or assumption about somebody, just remember you don’t know the whole story, just as they don’t know the entire context of your life either.Instead of focusing your efforts in trying to understand someone else and their challenges, first take the time to truly understand who you are as well through the journey to self realization.


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