If you watch what I am doing right now, you may say, “He is typing on a keyboard attached to a MacBook Pro.”
Or you may say, “He is writing an article about a game with photo cards.”
Or you may say, “He is wasting his time.”
These are different ways to talk about the same behavior. In this jolt, we focus on the three ways of describing, inferring, and evaluating. The statements in the earlier examples reflect these three ways.
The participants write 10 sentences about what they see in a photograph. Later they classify the sentences into descriptions, inferences, and evaluations. During the debriefing discussion, they compare these three categories.
To explore three different types of statements that people make about what they see.
- · Observation
- · Description
- · Inference
- · Evaluation
- · Perception
- Minimum: 3
- Maximum: Any number
- Best: 15 to 30
4 minutes for the activity. 5 minutes for debriefing.
- Pieces of paper
- Pens or pencils
Room Set up
Arrange seats around tables for groups of participants.
Collect a set of picture postcards, preferably from different countries displaying different cultures. You will need one card for each table. These cards could all be the same or different from one another.
Get ready for the activity. Organize the participants into groups of 3 to 5. Seat them around a table. Place a photograph, printed side down, in the middle of the table.
Give instructions. Use your own words to explain this procedure.
When I blow the whistle, turn over the photograph so everyone can see it. Study the photograph and secretly write 10 sentences about what you see in it. Keep each of these sentences short and make sure that each sentence is different from the others. You have 2 minutes to complete this task.
Write 10 sentences. Blow the whistle and repeat the instructions if necessary. Blow the whistle again at the end of 2 minutes. Announce the end of the activity and ask the participants to stop writing.
Explain the three categories. Use the information below to define the categories of description, inference, and evaluation. Illustrate each category with a sample sentence related to the photograph.
Description: Your sentence is an objective statement about some aspect of what you see in the photograph. You act like a behavioral scientist or an anthropologist and stick to facts about what you see. Example: The man on the left side of the photograph wears a blue cap.
Inference: Your sentence goes beyond what is visible and presents a conclusion based on the photograph. Example: The man does not like the hot sun shining on his bald head.
Evaluation: Your sentence contains an inference with some value judgement attached to it. Example: All people in the photograph have a cynical look.
Classify the sentences. Ask each participant to work independently and label his or her sentences with a D, I, or E to indicate whether it is primarily a description, inference, or evaluation. Pause while the participants complete this task.
- Conduct a debriefing discussion. Use the following types of questions:
- Can you give a sample of a sentence that is purely descriptive?
- Can you give a sample sentence that is primarily inferential?
- Can you give a sample sentence that is primarily evaluative?
- To what category do most your sentences belong?
- Which type of sentence is the easiest to write?
- Under what conditions are you likely to write inferences? Evaluations?
- What could be the disadvantages of coming up with inferences? Evaluations?
- What types of sentences do you frequently use in describing people from other countries and cultures?
- You can make statements about what you see in descriptive, inferential, and evaluative categories.
- Descriptive statements are the most objective. Inferences involve coming up with conclusions. Evaluations involve making judgements.
- People often make inferences and evaluations when describing objects and experiences from other countries and other cultures.