Difference Between Inference vs Observation

Difference Between Inference vs Observation

When you come across something that is interesting to you, you will probably pay close attention to it, taking in whatever you can about it. After some time, you would have your opinion about that thing. That is how it is with observation vs inference comparison.

Both of these terms are used in different walks of life, including statistics and science, where they form the basis of certain processes. In this post, we will take a look at what these terms stand for and how they can be distinguished from each other.

Definition of Inference

Inference is defined as any opinion formed based on preexisting facts and observation following a rational format. Other words that describe this term include assumption, conclusion, and summary.

If you have been in a science class before, especially the practical aspect, you may remember these words being used at the end of an experiment to express the opinion of the investigator about the experiment. An investigator, in this case, is a person carrying out an experiment.

Making a rational inference requires some element of reasoning and a line of thought explaining one’s personal opinion about a topic. They do not necessarily have to be accurate, but they have to make some form of sense based on the information provided.

In an inference vs observation comparison, there is a need for you to make a decision about the former based on the data, even though they are viewed as secondhand information. This is not the case with the latter where the investigator is still in the process of gathering information.

Definition of Observation

Observation is a method used in descriptive research as a primary source of data collection. Aside from descriptive research, you would agree that this act is also applicable to humans and animals via their senses in their day-to-day life. A good example of its application is in the field of behavioral science to solve problems.

You can also define it as an act of careful engagement in an objective manner that may involve one or more of the following – sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. Note that any observation that does not serve a formulated research purpose is not scientific.

If this method were to be applied in research, it has to be done in a systematic manner that requires the collection and recording of information, event, and object in a particular order. After that, the information collected would be subject to some tests to ensure its validity and reliability.

One interesting difference between inference and observation is that the researcher does not rely on the subjects for any data. If he is researching certain demography, for instance, he is not expected to ask them certain questions while interacting with them.

Main Differences Between Inference vs Observation

There are a lot of things one can say to answer the question – what is the difference between observation and inference? In this section, we will share with you the differences in a manner that is easy to understand.

Basis of ComparisonInferenceObservation
DefinitionAny opinion formed based on preexisting facts and observation following a rational formatA method used in descriptive research as a primary source of data collection
Based onAssumption of what is perceived and secondhand informationHands-on experience and perception
ProcedureMake decision based on the information collected by reasonable deductionCollect and record information without questioning the subjects. Monitor the subject under study

Difference Between Inference and Observation: Conclusion

These terms have quite a number of differences as stated above, but they also have some form of interrelations that make the two work hand in hand with each other. Every observation requires paying close attention to things that would trigger some questions. You may want to put those questions down while you are still gathering more information about the study.

After you are done studying the subject in question, you may want to revisit what you have recorded and try to answer the questions that come from that. To do this, you would need to think critically based on what you have learned so far and then come to a conclusion.