Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Difference between Observation and Interpretation

The Difference between Observation and Interpretation

Observation is looking at and recording behaviors. Interpretation attaches meaning to those observations. Both are done with the bias of the observer. Interpretation may accurately reflect what is going on, or may be completely wrong, since we cannot know what the animal is thinking. Usually, interpretation is somewhere in the middle. What we interpret may be an incomplete pattern or we may not observe all the variables involved. That’s why observation is so important and observing patterns of behaviors rather than isolated events is so important. The more information that is gathered by observation, the more likely our interpretation will be correct.

Practice with the difference between O & I:

Observation is who, what, where, when and how
Interpretation is a descriptive word or phrase and puts a value on the behavior.

Can you identify which statement is an observation O, which is an interpretation I?

1. Dog circles around person who strokes it and turns body into person.
2. When the dog sees another dog, he exhibits appeasement behaviors.
3. Dog growls at person who approaches the baby within 3 feet.
4. Dog’s eyes are half-closed and his mouth opens wide, stretching the skin around mouth, briefly teeth showing teeth before closing it.
5. The dog shows aggressive behaviors.
6. Dog is tired.
7. Dog sits on haunches and bends to the right and scratches her collar with a rear paw.
8. The front and rear leg muscles are relaxed and dog lays with head between paws.  
9. Dog is relaxed.
10. Dog had hyper behavior.

Answers at the bottom of the post.

Watch this video once to get a bigger picture of the dog's behavior. Then watch it again and observe specifically for what happens when the person touches the dog on his back. Provide only observations for what you see. No interpretations please.

Answers to Observation or Interpretation Quiz

1. O 
2. I 
3. O 
4. O 
5.  I  
6. I  
7. O 
8. O (In this case, the word 'relaxed' could be either a observation or an interpretation. Because it was specified what was relaxed (the muscles) it was referring to a behavior, rather than a judgement. It would have been clearer to say that the leg muscles were loose and hanging.
9. I (In this case we state the 'dog' is relaxed which assumes a collection of specific behaviors the dog is exhibiting and makes judgement on that collection: an interpretation) 
10. I

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