Observations and Inferences

Observations and Inferences

Author: Karla Sorensen

Practice making qualitative and quantitative observations BEFORE making inferences.

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Introduction to Psychology

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Copy these notes into your notebook. As you copy, make sure you understand them, too!


  1. Observations are anything that can be detected directly with the use of our five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell. 


  1. Qualitative observations describe the general qualities of something that are hard to measure.

Ex: color, taste, smell, size, shape


  1. Quantitative observations describe the quantities or measurements of something.

Ex: temperature, mass, length, anything with numbers

A good scientist becomes curious after making observations, generating questions that can be tested to explain the observations.


  1. Inferences are logical conclusions our brain makes to explain our observations.


The same observations can lead to different inferences, depending on the scientists’ perspectives.



For example, if you notice your plant’s leaves are turning brown, you don’t just say, “Huh. Brown leaves.”  You automatically jump to the inference that your plant is dying and wonder what you should do to help it live.  You don’t SEE it die; you SEE a color change and INFER an outcome.  

Practice Time!

For each example decide if the observation is Qualitative (QL) or Quantitative (QNT).

1. The candy was sour

2. The snake was 2 m wide

3. The flower is red

4. The slug was slimy

5. The volume was turned up to level 8

6. The mass of the beaker is 122 g

7. My fingernail is 2 cm long

8. He has 3 sisters

9. It made a loud popping sound

10. The surface feels rough

Read through each slide and write down your responses to the prompts.

Practice time!


strange accidents 35

3 Observations:



3 possible Inferences:




3 Questions you now have:




3 Observations:



3 possible Inferences:




3 Questions you now have:




***In your own words, explain the difference between observations and inferences.