The talent for deduction starts with what you can observe. Now I use the term observation instead of see, because seeing things is sort of passive. You can spend all day seeing plenty but never apply meaning or description to what you see. In this short post I wanted to explore a little bit of observation and deduction to learn a little bit about a house I saw on my way to work.
Look At The Broad Picture
The first things I see in this photograph are the big things. I see the ornate iron fence, the trash receptacle, the grass, the vehicles in the driveway, and the sense of greenery. Now I need to take those big picture things and look at them specifically to find details. I use this information to deduce what I can about my neighbor. Now, what I don’t want to do is make deductions BEFORE I gather the data. So I am making no assumptions, just filling in my observation sheet.
Making deductions isn’t hard, but often times they can feel elusive because we don’t know what we are looking for. So before after you have made observations, start filling in information about what your observations tell you. This could be things like, ‘what kind of income does this person have?’, ‘how long has this item been here?’, ‘what is the usage of the item’? Questions, questions, questions. You need to ask good questions to form deductions.
Receptacle - What Do I See?
I see the Santek label on a sturdy grey bin. It has wheels, a lid that can open and close, as well as a handle of some kind. On the wheels and portions of the bin, I notice there is also some dirt attached.
Fence - What Do I See?
The fence is made up of iron. Some of it painted black, some of it painted a rust color. More specifically, the large stakes are painted rust and the smaller ones that sit in between them are painted black. On the main gate, there are two dogs pointing at each other and are painted white. The small stakes on the gate are painted white at their tips. Additionally, there are four red reflectors on the gate. There are two columns made of bricks or slate. They have sandstone appearance to them. At the top of the fence there seems to be a small light post.
Greenery/Nature - What Do I See?
To the left on the picture, it looks like there is an oak or pine tree. Additionally, I do see grass as well as dirt on the street and the driveway.
Driveway/House - What Do I See?
Besides the dirt driveway, I see at least two vehicles. There is a large Dodge 3500, and some kind of off road vehicle to its left. In the picture, I don’t really see the house to well but it also has a similar rust/orange color that the fence post has, although it is a little lighter.
It's time to exercise your deductive skills. The challenge begins here. For each of the topics above, spend some time thinking about what information you can extract from the observations that we have made.
Forming The Deduction
If we do a simple search, we can find the company Santek. It’s a residential and commercial waste retrieval company. The bins are “95-gallon rolling cart” according to the website. The bill for this company amounts to about $120 every 2 months. The “rolling cart” gets picked up weekly by a garbage truck. At the bottom of the cart, we see a lot of dirt that has been splashed on the bin. Dirt doesn’t really travel up without help from the wind or rain. We can presume that the dirt splashed onto the bin during a rain storm. We could conclude that the dirt on the road in front of the bin, came from the bin, but there is still plenty of dirt still on the bin towards the bottom. Rain comes from above and moves down. If it was from the bin, surely the rain would have washed drip lines into the dirt at the bottom of the bin. We also note that the dirt is on the wheels. The coverage is complete. This is suggestive that the dirt was acquired from rolling. So the dirt on the bin likely came from another location. The yard must have dirt in it that is loose and splashed onto the bin, as well as was tracked onto the wheels.
A gate isn’t a cheap thing to purchase. It requires the materials as well as the permit. The work of the iron looks good and the gate looks professionally done. It is of interest that the person chose to put dog silhouettes on the fence. It’s embellishment to a pretty attractive fence. We can conclude the person likes dogs. Maybe they own one or wish to own one.
The truck that is visible in the driveway is a newer looking Dodge Ram 3500. The price for this truck is about $35-60,000. The monthly payments for a vehicle like this might be something like $700 a month, plus full coverage which might be close to $350 or so. If we add up the gas from a diesel vehicle that has a tank of 31-32 gallons. If the driver filled up once a month they might be looking at $93 for gas. Total cost for truck with the assumption that gas is only put in once a month and at a price of $3 a gallon, we get $1,143. This is just one of the vehicles we see. Additionally, the cost for housing, utilities, groceries, etc… we can conclude that the owner of this house has to make more than $1,143 a month to live on. This of course can lead us to speculate about what type of job they have that allows them to afford an expensive vehicle or perhaps requires such a big truck.
What good is any of this information? When we come across someones front yard or get a glance at the clothes they are wearing, what can we truly see? Let’s break down the information that we gathered and come to some basic conclusions we can reach. We can deduce that the person that lives in this house is responsible, they like dogs. They likely take their shoes off before entering their home. They make more than $1,143 dollars a month, and likely have a pretty stable income. They’re interested in either protecting their property or possibly their privacy.
For a person to have a car note of any kind in the United States, they likely would have a job, and the money management skills to provide the payments for a vehicle. A fitting word to describe a person that can do all of these things is responsible. Of course if they are a drug lord or a master thief, they may not need a job. But let’s give my neighbor the benefit of the doubt and say that they are just hard working people.
I say the person likes dogs because of the big white dogs on the fence. Let’s play around with this idea for a moment. Suppose that the person living in this house, purchased the home from someone else and they didn’t get around to pulling down the pooches from the fence, why isn’t that the answer to the reason the dogs are on the fence? Often, when making deductions, searching through the possibilities is a powerful way to reach a conclusion about something. Of course once the possibility is presented we must reason on it to ensure that our deduction is sound. So let’s explore.
If the previous owner had left the dogs, wouldn’t they take them with them? These items aren’t a typical purchase you can find at the store. I searched for these two dogs online and my search didn’t yield any results that compared to these two dogs. Granted, maybe the supply ran out of big white dogs or it’s not in season, but I think this purchase is a unique one. Maybe even custom order.
The owner, whoever they are, located these dogs with some effort. Which leaves the question of why would anyone moving, leave an item like this. Oh, but what if they were moving to an apartment complex and couldn't bring them? Okay fair enough. As a homeowner, one of the first things you see coming to your home is the exterior of your home. Maybe the new homeowner is cool with two white dogs plastered on their fence. Maybe it meshes with their style.
Then we have to consider the coloration of the dogs. As with any outdoor ornament, the weather will eventually discolor them. These two dogs are in fine coloration, with a nice white. So what? Considering that the dogs haven’t been discolored from time works against the notion that the previous owners left them behind. White items tend to stain pretty easily.
“Houston has a humid subtropical type of climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) with long, hot and humid summers and short, mild winters. Houston lies in the Harris County of Southeastern Texas, near the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay. The proximity to large water bodies, which brings warm air for much of the year, has a significant influence on the climate.”
With all the rainfall and humidity, weathering is a pretty consistent thing in Texas. I expect there to be some discoloration or even dirt caked onto these dogs, but there are none. This is suggestive that the ornaments haven’t been on the fence. To get back to our point, if the previous owners had purchased the dogs, moved out and left them for the new homeowners, this likely would have taken place over a period of a year or two. Yet there is no discoloration.
Now we can go on and on, down the rabbit hole, but let’s just say that these two dogs belong to the current home owner. We tend to surround ourselves with things we like, so it’s not a far stretch of the imagination to say that this person likes dogs.
They likely take off their shoes before entering the house.
The trash can could have told us all we need to know about the state of their driveway. As they roll the bin, dirt clumps onto the wheels. Rain splashed dirt onto the bin from the place where the bin sits in the yard. This is suggestive. We can conclude that the homeowner has loose fitting dirt in their driveway. It sticks to objects. If there was far less dirt, I might be inclined to believe that their yard has some concrete in it to increase the transfer of dirt from the wheels back to the ground from the rolling.
Let’s put our imagination into play here. If I drive home from work and I step out of my car, what would I be stepping into? Concrete or dirt? Perhaps they have a cobblestone path or some kind of way to prevent dirt from transferring onto my shoes has been placed down to prevent this. But rain is indiscriminate and it has washed up dirt onto my pathway despite my careful planning. I get to my porch and I have one of two choices in regards to my footwear. I can leave them on and walk into the house, risking tracking mud, or I can take them off before entering the house. Even if I have tile, it doesn’t mean I want to spend more time cleaning it up constantly from tracked dirt.
I think it’s a safe conclusion to draw that I would take off my shoes before entering the house. Especially if I am a responsible person as we indicated earlier.
There are only a couple of reasons I can come up with for having a fence/gate. One: We want to keep something in. Two: We want to keep something out. Three: We want to deter entry but through a specific point. Four: We want to make a demarcation of our land. That is, we want to make a distinction between our property and someone else's. Five: We want to maintain distance from the roadway and prevent others from getting too close to our home. This gives the notion of privacy.
We can suggest any one of the above reasons about the fence, but a broad statement about the reason for the fence is acceptable. The person wants to protect their belongings and wants some measure of privacy.
Based on our observation about the white dog silhouettes, we might even make a suggestion and say the person owns a dog. If they have a dog, they probably don’t want other animals or people coming into their yard. Regardless, we know that the fence exists and it has a purpose. So we will leave our deduction broad. We don’t have much data on this person so we don’t want to push too far with our deductions.
There are plenty of other things that we can comment on about this picture, but time is limited and I don’t want to draw this post out. Our ability to extract information from our day to day life is very powerful, but it takes time and effort to do so. If we want to draw inferences or make deductions and have them make sense, we need to slow down and compare what we know against the situation at hand. Then we must ask questions about why things are and what those things mean for ourselves and for others.
This is just a suggestion, but if you want to improve your ability to make deductions, maybe spend time doing what we did in this post. Take something mundane like your neighbors yard, a parked car, or a person sitting at a coffee shop and ask questions like, “How did they get here?” “What do their shoes and clothes tell me?” Etc… Doing this process might not yield all of the correct answers. You might be dead wrong in your conclusions and maybe no one will care about what you are thinking about. But the act of slowing down and considering what could be and why things are will go a long way to improving your ability to think like Sherlock Holmes.