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Have you ever tried to make deductions like Sherlock? Have you ever wondered how your observations hold up against the large amount of variables that come with making an observation about a person? What do you look for? What do you ignore? This post is special because it marks the first post where I take a real life deduction and post about it. For this deduction, I confirmed with the person that I observed and they confirmed that my deductions were accurate. I sent them a form to assess the accuracy of my deductions so I have validation for this project. I will try to get it. posted once they fill it out. The hope is that I can evaluate how I would approach real deductions and begin to cataloguing examples that we can use to improve our abilities. Look out for these types of posts once a month. I would suggest taking one section of it daily if you don't have time to read the entire post in one sitting. There's a lot to take in and a lot can be missed by skimming through the information. Now that I have given you the disclaimer, let's dive in.
Read this very carefully so you take in all of the facts or as many as I am willing to share with you. Before me sits a pretty young woman. She is about 22-25 years of age. Ethnicity is hard to pin down. She has black hair but half of it is dyed red. She wears makeup that is evenly distributed (good foundation) and has eye shadow. She just started a job at my company. (We work in a heart monitoring lab, in controlled climate.) I see a ring on her finger (not wedding ring finger). She has has pink nail polish that is in the design of one color but the ring finger is in a different shade. Her toe nails are painted as well. She wears the same sweater daily and has a blanket that she brings with her to work. She has a “Bang” energy drink by her desk (we work 10 hour shifts at a sedentary job). She has an Iphone 6. Additionally she has a pair of Moccasins to accompany her medical scrubs I presume. There are plenty of other things to observe, like her bag, glasses, etc… but I will stop there. The point of this is to get you to try and make your own deductions by thinking backwards.
Tip: Turning Observation Into Meaning
The first thing I would like to address is that when we observe something, we tend to not place significance to the items unless we are consciously trying to or something about the person stands out as unique or strange. So in order to get into the headspace of being very precise with my observations, I tend to write them down on a piece of paper. This slows me down and forces me to hone in on what is actually there, not what my mind thinks is there.
Exercise - But for this concept to make any impact, pull out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. If you have a computer or cell phone in front of you, open a note taking app. Look at something in the room where you are sitting. It can be anything from a cat to a napkin. Now, look away from the thing being observed. How much do you remember about it? How much detail did you assign to the observation? Now, look at the item again and write down your observations. You might be surprised at how much detail you actually missed. Writing things down, forces us to slow down and concentrate. So this is my first piece of advice when it comes to observation. Write down what you see. So write down my observation for yourself. (Found in the "Observation" section of this page)
When you are simply observing, you are taking in bits of information. Unfortunately our brains aren't like a computer that downloads files and programs. The closest thing that comes to that is Hyperthymesia or an eidetic memory. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Even if you could remember everything you saw, it doesn't mean that you assign value to what you see. Without applying meaning, your observations will generally be superficial or fleeting. That is, they won't feel like they last for more than a first impression and won't really mean anything.
For example, let's pretend there is a person that is sitting right across from us. They are wearing glasses and drinking a coffee. Without thinking twice about it, our brain registers this information and moves on. We might recall that later on, but it doesn't mean anything to us. Now let's take a moment to try to assign meaning to one piece of information here. Why are they wearing glasses?
Are they wearing them to get rid of glare, to reduce blue light, because they are near or far sighted, to block out the sun, to appear trendy or smart. Narrow down the choices based on what you know about the person. If they have a book with them, they probably aren't trying to appear smart but maybe need the glasses. But that might be premature. Do they have a special tint? Can you tell based on looking through the lens if they distort your vision? Etc... Once you assign meaning, try to spend time getting the details of the glasses. How old are they? What's the brand? What does the style say about the person? Are there any nicks or scratches? Are they dirty? Asking and answering these questions, will go a long way towards making a deduction about the person.
Now that you have a sense of assigning meaning to your observations, let's dive into the real life deduction. (For the following sections, I will group the observations and deductions into how they play into the overall deduction. )
Observation and Deduction 1
"Before me sits a pretty young woman. She is about 22-25 years of age. Ethnicity is hard to pin down"
This observation, in itself, could mislead us when we are interpreting the world around us. Being pretty and young as a woman can mean a lot of things. Depending on where she grew up, how much she used or didn't use these assets, how much she assigns current value to these qualities, etc...could tell us a lot. But for this observation and deduction, this information is almost useless unless we know more about her.
Holmes in the Sign of Four, "“...while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty.”
Assigning age and gender have value, but without history and context, they become nothing more than generalizations. Or they should stay that way in our mind. They shouldn't tell us what the person is capable or like. They should be neutral to us. On average, I can say that pretty young woman like hanging out with their friends, messing around on the internet, posting on social media, etc... This doesn't mean that the girl I am currently observing enjoys any of those things. She has simply fallen into what I call the "all together" description. For all I know, she might like reading, rock climbing, and listening to lectures by TEDX speakers.
What do pretty young woman like to do in your country?
It should also be noted that "pretty and young" are descriptors that are relative to me. These words may evoke different images in your mind. Depending on which country you are from and what you have been raised to believe "pretty and young" to be, my assigning that to her may be of little value to you. Avoid these when you are making deductions unless you can pursue what they actually mean in context to the person.
Ethnicity isn't so important when we observe with the intention of making a deduction. But understanding this can maybe give us some clues about values and shared experiences. For example, people that live in America have steering wheels that are found on the left side of the vehicle and drive on the right side of the road whereas in Japan the steering wheels may be found on the right side of the vehicle and they drive on the left. This is a shared experience and something that is universal. Finding these universally shared experiences can help us if we are using ethnicity to make deductions. Otherwise, they can easily fall into the same category of the "all together" descriptor; They amount to nothing but a generalization.
For this section there is no deduction. I will use this information a little later to make a different deduction. It is important to note when something is an observation to be stored away and when you can use it deduce something. For now, let's just store this information away until we need it.
Observation and Deduction 2
"She wears the same sweater daily and has a blanket that she brings with her to work. She has an Iphone 6. Additionally she has a pair of Moccasins to accompany her medical scrubs I presume."
Like the tip mentioned at the beginning of this post, let's assign meaning to these observations.
What does the fact that she wears the same sweater daily to work mean?
Where I live, sweaters aren't really expensive compared to wages and my observations tell me that many people wear different sweaters, because they usually own more than one. Now I can spend a lot fo time trying to figure out things like, "Does she not like shopping?", "Did she have money problems and can't afford to buy another one?", "Does that sweater have emotional significance to it? Maybe her dead father gave it to her." All of these questions will lead me to nothing useful at the moment. They don't have any available answers unless I dig deeper. This is a pitfall that can happen to any of us. We can assign or project our beliefs about things without having any basis for doing so.
For this observation the only thing that I can use to make an accurate deduction is to go to my handy syllogism.
Major Premise: People that bring an item with them every day, are habitual.
Minor Premise: She brings the item with her every day.
Conclusion: Therefore she is habitual.
I think we now have a strong basis for a sound deduction. Because our premises are true and our conclusion is valid in our syllogism, we can state something we know to be the case. People that are habitual can be depended on to do things they are in a habit of doing. This might seem redundant to explore and state, but "obvious facts" aren't so obvious until they are explored and pointed out. Spend time exploring obvious facts to make sure they are really obvious.
Observation: She wears the same sweater daily.
Deduction: She is a creature of habit.
The fact that she is wearing both a sweater and a carries a blanket tells us a lot. To bring a sweater with you could imply simply being prepared for temperatures you find to be uncomfortable. But to bring a blanket in addition to the sweater tells us something a little more. The blanket and sweater tell us that she is capable of planning and forethought but also tell us about her perception of temperature.
If you know someone that has lived in an area that is really cold, they may find when they come to another area that isn't nearly as cold, they don't get their sweater out the same way a native to that area might. This is perception of temperature. To some degrees being cold is nothing more than how your mind registers the external temperature. If it has been conditioned to colder conditions, we can conclude that the person may have grown up in an area where the temperature is colder than where we are. Or maybe they have nerve damage. But feeling cold can also be because of poor blood circulation.
But, let's not digress to much. Without reaching for a big explanation and knowing everything of her history, let's make a broad statement. I mentioned in the initial observation that we worked in a controlled environment/climate and that our work is sedentary. This means that she won't be moving around a lot. Sitting down for long periods of time is the test to blood circulation. If a person has relatively good blood circulation in a controlled temperature of about 70 - 75 degrees, we can conclude they may want to carry a sweater for comfort, but to carry a blanket in addition to the sweater, implies they get cold easily. This may be a guess more than a firm deduction but it has a solid footing. She has poor blood circulation.
Your legs receive oxygenated blood from the heart and send it back by means of compression. This can be accomplished by muscle constriction or clothing and blood pressure. Imagine for a moment that you are running. At first you may feel a little stiff and maybe even cool. As you run longer and further, your blood pressure increases and your heart rate elevates. The impression you get from all the physiological processes that occur, make you feel warm or hot. The average heart rate of a person is 60-100bpm at rest compared to the max heart rate of 220 minus the persons age when under exertion. If her blood is circulating properly and her heart rate is hitting the right numbers, she probably wouldn't need the added attire.
Observation: She wears the same sweater daily and brings a blanket with her.
Deduction: She has poor blood circulation.
I mentioned that she has an Iphone 6 and a pair of Moccasins to accompany her medical scrubs. This is where the information about her age comes into play. It is common trend for many young people to update their phones regularly or semi regularly. As of writing this article the Iphone 6 is 4 years old. The age of the phone could tell us a lot. Without showing a picture of the phone, think about why someone living in America that could afford a new phone wouldn't. Here is my list:
They don't feel they need to, the phone functions so why upgrade
They prefer the phone to others, even newer generations
They can't afford to
The phone isn't important to them, they don't care about updating
When we add the fact that she is also wearing Moccasins (a shoe of function and comfort to fashion) instead of some other shoe, and that she wears the same sweater daily, tells us something of her nature. I think we can start to say that she is someone that likes function and comfort. Additionally, it's not a far leap in logic to think that someone that prefers function to extravagance or the latest and greatest may not like big changes in her life. She keeps the things that work for her without seeing a need to change them.
Observation: She has an Iphone 6 and a pair of Moccasins to accompany her medical scrubs.
Inference: She prefers function and comfort to extravagance. She doesn't like change.
Observation and Deduction 3
"She has pink nail polish that is in the design of one color but the ring finger is a different shade. Her toe nails are painted as well. (Observed when she wore sandals) She wears makeup that is evenly distributed (good foundation and toner.) and has eye shadow"
This deduction and observation should be approached from what those things mean across the globe. Why does any young woman in any culture wear makeup and paint their nails? They like looking nice. This isn't so much a deduction as a general conclusion we can make about entire group of people. I'm not going to presume if she is trying to impress others or not, but I can safely say that these things tell me share cares about how she looks.
Even if the makeup wasn't applied well, which is looks like it is, it takes time to go to the store and purchase makeup. It takes time to apply it before coming to work. When we invest time in something we generally care about it. She has shown that she is investing time in how she appears. This tells me that she has some levels of self respect.
Here's something cool about deductions, as long as you have reasoned things out, you can use whatever you like to describe the deduction, as long as it is accurate. For this deduction I will say, she has healthy doses of self respect, but I could have said any number of other things that are similar. For example I could have said, "you care how you look", "you invest time in preparing for each day", "you care how others view you." Any one of those comments could have reasonably satisfied this condition of her wearing makeup.
Observation: She has pink nail polish that is the design of one color but the ring finger is a different shade. Her toe nails are painted as well. She wears makeup that is evenly distributed and has eye shadow.
Conclusion: She has healthy doses of self respect.
Observation and Deduction 4
"She has black hair but half of it is dyed red. She just started a job at my company. She has a Bang energy drink at her desk"
Sometimes deductions need a level of layering to be achieved. If you recall that we established that she is a creature of habit and that she prefers function too extravagance. Her willingness to keep the same sweater daily and the same phone for years suggests that she prefers things she is comfortable with.
But based on that consistency, we can infer that she probably doesn't enjoy big changes in her life. Yet we see that she has both dyed hair and has started a new job. Both of those things are big changes. Our hair helps us to establish our identity. For a person to dye their hair, they obviously want to change the perception they have of themselves. Our employment status can change everything about our lives from the time we wake up to the amount of time we spend with our families and friends. For a person to change both their hair and their work tell us they wanted change. Since she is a new employee, it tells me she is desirous of change recently.
In addition, we can linger on this conclusion. Think of the internal struggle that comes with those types of changes. I just went shopping to purchase some new shoes. It took me 20 minutes to decide if I would purchase the shoes or not. After putting them on, I still had a hard time deciding if I wanted to keep them or not. When we can't anticipate the satisfaction and joy we will receive from making a change, we can be left feeling uncertain and may lack confidence, just as I had a hard time purchasing the shoes.
I can't predict how much people attach value to purchases, but it is a common human trait to doubt ourselves when we are in a situation where changes are anticipated. So it's not hard for me to say that she is uncertain or self conscious considering the changes she is facing.
I mentioned at the beginning that the work we do is sedentary. We don't move very much. The Bang energy drink tells about something she may be experiencing. Bang energy drink has 300mg of caffeine. Caffeine has a half life of 5 hours. So if she drinks 300mg of caffeine at 7am, she still has 150mg of caffeine in her system at 12pm. 300mg is about 2 cups of coffee. Caffeine is a stimulant that elevates the heart rate and increases blood pressure. When energy is built up like this and the body doesn't have a strong need to metabolize it, it is common to feel some levels of anxiety. This energy drink combined with the new job, tells me that she may suffer from anxiety.
Finally, without getting into details, we work in a heart monitoring lab. It takes a lot of time and training to get to the level she is at as a medical professional. This tells us that she is intelligent.
Observation: She has black hair but half of it is dyed red. She just started a job at my company. She has a Bang energy drink at her desk.
Conclusion: She was desirous of change recently and suffers from anxiety. Additionally, she is intelligent but still feels levels of uncertainty and self consciousness.
Ok, so this was a long post, but it took some explaining to hit all of our points. Now we have reached the fun part. I am no actor and can't deliver lines to save my life, but this is my deduction based on my observations.
This was a pretty lengthy post. Thank you so much for sticking it out and getting to the end. I hope that it added some value to your week or month or opened up some new thoughts. I am a student of learning and I hope to keep sharing what I learn with you in the future. Like always, love to learn again.