AskDefine | Define observation

Dictionary Definition



1 the act of making and recording a measurement
2 the act of observing; taking a patient look [syn: observance, watching]
3 facts learned by observing; "he reported his observations to the mayor"
4 the act of noticing or paying attention; "he escaped the notice of the police" [syn: notice, observance]
5 a remark expressing careful consideration [syn: reflection, reflexion]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The act of observing, and the fact of being observed.
  2. The act of noting and recording some event; or the record of such noting.
  3. A remark or comment.
  4. A judgement based on observing.


act of observing or being observed
recording an event; the record of such noting
  • Dutch: waarneming, waarnemen
  • Finnish: havainto
  • Japanese: 観察
  • Romanian: observaţie
remark or comment

Extensive Definition

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 data

Observations 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:
  1. observe a phenomenon,
  2. Hypothesize an explanation for the phenomenon,
  3. predict a logical consequence of the guess,
  4. Test the prediction, and
  5. review for any mistakes.
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.
observation in Arabic: رصد
observation in Bulgarian: Наблюдение
observation in Catalan: Observació
observation in Czech: Pozorování
observation in Danish: Observation
observation in German: Beobachtung
observation in Estonian: Vaatlus
observation in Modern Greek (1453-): Παρατήρηση
observation in Spanish: Observación
observation in Esperanto: Observado
observation in French: Observation
observation in Indonesian: Pengamatan
observation in Dutch: Observatie
observation in Japanese: 観測
observation in Polish: Obserwacja (psychometria)
observation in Portuguese: Observação
observation in Romanian: Observaţie
observation in Russian: Наблюдение
observation in Simple English: Observation
observation in Slovak: Pozorovanie
observation in Serbian: Посматрање
observation in Finnish: Havainto
observation in Swedish: Observation
observation in Thai: การสังเกต
observation in Ukrainian: Спостерігач
observation in Chinese: 观察

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Parthian shot, accordance, acquittal, acquittance, address, adherence, advertence, advertency, affirmation, alertness, allegation, announcement, answer, apostrophe, apprehension, assertion, assiduity, assiduousness, assumption, attention, attention span, attentiveness, attitude, averment, awareness, bugging, care, carrying out, climate of opinion, cloak-and-dagger work, cognizance, comment, commentary, common belief, community sentiment, compliance, conceit, concentration, concept, conception, conclusion, conformance, conformity, consciousness, consensus gentium, consideration, counterespionage, counterintelligence, crack, criticism, declaration, dictum, diligence, discharge, discovery, ear, earnestness, electronic surveillance, espial, espionage, estimate, estimation, ethos, examination, exclamation, execution, expression, eye, fancy, feeling, following, fulfillment, general belief, greeting, heed, heedfulness, heeding, idea, image, imago, impression, inspection, intellectual object, intelligence, intelligence work, intentiveness, intentness, interjection, judgment, keeping, lights, looking, lookout, mark, memory-trace, mental image, mental impression, mention, military intelligence, mind, mindfulness, mystique, note, notice, notion, obiter dictum, observance, opinion, perception, performance, personal judgment, phrase, point of view, popular belief, position, posture, practice, presumption, prevailing belief, proclamation, pronouncement, public belief, public opinion, question, reaction, recept, reflection, regard, regardfulness, remark, representation, respect, satisfaction, say, saying, scrutiny, secret police, secret service, sentence, sentiment, shadowing, sight, spying, stakeout, stance, statement, subjoinder, supposition, surveillance, survey, tailing, theory, thinking, thought, trailing, utterance, view, viewing, watch, watching, way of thinking, wiretap, wiretapping, witnessing, word
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