- Plural of observation.
Observation is either an activity of a sapient or sentient living being (such as a human), which senses and assimilates the knowledge of a phenomenon, or the recording of data using instruments. The term may also refer to any datum collected during this activity.
Observation as recording of scientific dataObservations are statements which are determined by using the senses. Observations aroused by self-defining instruments are often unreliable¹. Such observations are hard to reproduce because they may vary even with respect to the same stimuli. Therefore they are not of much use in exact sciences like physics which require instruments which do not define themselves. It is therefore often necessary to use various engineered instruments such as spectrometers, oscilloscopes, cameras, telescopes, interferometers, tape recorders, thermometers etc. and tools such as clocks and Tape measures that help in improving the accuracy, quality and utility of the information obtained from an observation. Invariable observation requires uniformity of response to a given stimulus, and devices promoting such observation must not give output that is in any way subjective (as if having "a mind (or opinion) of their own"). In statistics, an observation, whether of a sample or the population, measures one or more properties (weight, location, etc.) of an observable entity enumerated to distinguish objects or individuals.
The accuracy and tremendous success of science is primarily attributed to the accuracy and objectivity (i.e. repeatability) of observation of the reality that science explores.
The role of observation in the scientific method
The scientific method includes these steps:
Observation plays a role in the first and fourth steps in the above list. Reliance is placed upon the five physical senses, and upon measurement techniques. It is therefore understood that there are always certain limitations in making observations.
Role of observation in philosophy
"Observe always that everything is the result of a change, and get used to thinking that there is nothing Nature loves so well as to change existing forms and to make new ones like them." Meditations. iv. 36. -Marcus Aurelius
Observation in philosophical terms is the process of filtering sensory information through the thought process. Input is received via hearing, sight, smell, taste, or touch and then analyzed through either rational or irrational thought. You see a parent beat their child; you observe that such an action is either good or bad. Deductions about what behaviors are good or bad may be based on no way preferences about building relationships, or study of the consequences resulting from the observed behavior. With the passage of time, impressions stored in the consciousness about many related observations, together with the resulting relationships and consequences, permit the individual to build a construct about the moral implications of behavior.
The defining characteristic of observation is that it involves drawing conclusions, as well as building personal views about how to handle similar situations in the future, rather than simply registering that something has happened. But according to Jiddu Krishnamurti, observation does not imply drawing conclusions and building personal views. He stressed the non-accumulation of knowledge. Such an observation, he asserted, will make the mind free.
observations in Arabic: رصد
observations in Bulgarian: Наблюдение
observations in Catalan: Observació
observations in Czech: Pozorování
observations in Danish: Observation
observations in German: Beobachtung
observations in Estonian: Vaatlus
observations in Modern Greek (1453-): Παρατήρηση
observations in Spanish: Observación
observations in Esperanto: Observado
observations in French: Observation
observations in Indonesian: Pengamatan
observations in Dutch: Observatie
observations in Japanese: 観測
observations in Polish: Obserwacja (psychometria)
observations in Portuguese: Observação
observations in Romanian: Observaţie
observations in Russian: Наблюдение
observations in Simple English: Observation
observations in Slovak: Pozorovanie
observations in Serbian: Посматрање
observations in Finnish: Havainto
observations in Swedish: Observation
observations in Thai: การสังเกต
observations in Ukrainian: Спостерігач
observations in Chinese: 观察