Global Leadership Activities – Pre-Program

Activity 3: Describe, Interpret, Analyze

How It Works

This activity will ask you to think about the difference between describing, interpreting, and analyzing in a given situation. This exercise should help you appreciate the distinction between what we actually see (description), the layers of meaning that we add (interpretation), and our value judgements (analysis).

DESCRIPTION: What I See (only observed facts)
INTERPRETATION: What I Think (about what I see)
ANALYSIS: What I Feel (value judgements, positive or negative)

How You Do It

  • Write down everything you can about the photo. Be as detailed as you can be. If possible, explain aloud to a friend or family member as you write it down.
  • Look back at all of the points you wrote about the photo. Try to categorize which of those statements are truly objective descriptions of the image, which have added interpretation or perception of the image, and which are judgements or analyses you have made about what’s going on in the image. See examples below.

Examples of Possible Statements:
– Description:  I can see a woman carrying straw and a man smoking.
– Interpretation: The woman is tired.
– Analysis: It is horrible that the man is making her carry the straw while he smokes.

  • After categorizing your own statements about each photo, ask yourself the following questions and write down your answers:
    • “How else could I describe it?”
    • “How else could I interpret it?”
    • “How else could I analyze it?”

Take Away Points

  • Most of us tend to do all three (describe, interpret, and analyze) at once, without really thinking about it. We tend to assume that our evaluations are objective truths, instead of just one of many possible meanings that could be attributed to what we see.
  • Our brains open up to additional possibilities when we describe what we see before interpreting and evaluating it.
  • How we describe, interpret, and analyze is shaped by our life experiences and cultural vantage points.
  • Try not to get frustrated or disheartened if this concept is challenging for you to wrap your head around, or if you have trouble seeing the difference between describing, interpreting, and analyzing. It takes a lot of practice and intention to do this well, so the important first step is starting to become aware of the immediate judgements and assumptions we make in everyday life.