What is observation?

We explain what observation is and what scientific observation consists of. In addition, how is this process in everyday life.

  1. What is observation?

Observation is a process in which information is obtained through the use of the senses .  The Royal Spanish Academy defines this term as the act of observing , which in turn is understood as «carefully examining», «looking carefully or demurely».

Animals, as well as people, “observe . ” For example, a cougar watches its prey carefully, moves with stealth, tries to find the best way to attack it and thus be able to kill it. Cats, for example, are very curious animals that tend to observe everything around them.

The humans make observations, but are slightly more complex than those made by the animals. Despite not having developed senses in an exceptional way, human beings make more complete and complex observations (if they are systematized, this is not always the case). For these purposes, we use various tools that expand the possibilities of observation that the senses offer us; This is the case of astronomers who use telescopes to study stars and celestial bodies.

  1. The observation in science

Scientific observation
The term “observation” in many cases exceeds face-to-face and direct observation.

Observation is also one of the first and main steps when using the scientific method . The scientific method is the set of rules and methodological precepts that guide the conduct of a researcher to ensure its correct development. It is a consensus of the scientific community and aims to differentiate what is scientific from what is not, separate “truths” from “beliefs.”

The place given to observation was crucial during the ups and downs of positivism (this philosophical current affirms that the only valid knowledge is that which is acquired through the senses). It was believed that man “faced” a reality external to him, in which he was a mere observer.

With the passage of time, it was demonstrated that this vision of common sense is not so because our observation is guided by experience , and what we understand that we observe is mediated by this same. This is only part of a great epistemological debate about what is first, whether observation or theory (something like the famous chicken and egg dilemma).

Finally, the term “observation” in many cases exceeds face-to-face and direct observation. We can find an example of this in the social and human sciences . For example, statistics are “observable” samples even if the researcher has not had direct contact with the respondents (in general, this task is carried out by employees who carry out the surveys) but nevertheless, he will talk about his “observation”.

  1. The observation in everyday life

If we deviate from the scientific sphere, in the normal use of language we say that we make an “observation” when we highlight something that we consider important or, in turn, an error . It is to put a greater focus on some specific detail so as to be able to subtract its most outstanding characteristics or also its advantages and disadvantages.

In conclusion , the world would not be the same if the ability to observe did not exist both in the scientific environment or in everyday life.

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