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Observation is the active acquisition of information from a primary source. In living beings, observation employs the senses. The scientific method requires observations of natural phenomena to formulate and test hypotheses. Observations play a role in the second and fifth steps of the scientific method. Human senses are limited and subject to errors in perception, such as optical illusions.

One problem encountered throughout scientific fields is that the observation may affect the process being observed, resulting in a critical outcome than if the process was unobserved. 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. In some specific fields of science the results of observation differ depending on factors which are not important in everyday observation. These are usually illustrated with «paradoxes» in which an event appears different when observed from two different points of view, seeming to violate «common sense». The human senses do not function like a video camcorder, impartially recording all observations.


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Human perception occurs by a complex, unconscious process of abstraction, in which certain details of the incoming sense data are noticed and remembered, and the rest forgotten. Several of the more important ways observations can be affected by human psychology are given below. In psychology, this is called confirmation 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. An observational bias occurs when researchers only look where they think they will find positive results, or where it is easy to record observations.

This is called the «streetlight effect». 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. Observation in philosophical terms is the process of filtering sensory information through the thought process. Deductions about what behaviors are good or bad may be based on preferences about building relationships, or study of the consequences resulting from the observed behavior. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Observation.

Look up Observation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. Not all memories really happened: What experts wish you knew about false memories». Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time. Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. Welcome to Education World’s Work Sheet Library. In this section of our library, we present more than 100 ready-to-print student work sheets organized by grade level.

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