When asking people, "What do you see?" I find the question often confuses them. Though I prompt people with Denzel Washington's line in the film Philadelphia, "explain it to me like I'm six years old" people are unsure what is being asked.

"Seeing" is not simple. So, it may be useful to have people organize what they "see" into three categories: what they observe, what they know, what they deduce. I got that triad from an activity in the American Social History Project's Who Built America? curriculum in which tax records are used to understand the life of a colonial-era worker, about whom there is no other documentation. (How can we write history from below?)

Observation is what I am really asking for when I say, "What do you see?" But it is interesting that people's answers mix observation, knowledge and deduction and that knowledge (which includes prejudice) and deduction often crowd out observation. To give an example, I sometimes use an image that shows two women, one older, the other younger, sitting side by side with one holding up a piece of needlepoint as if to show the other what she is doing. What do you see? "I see a teacher showing a girl how to sew. The teacher is her grandmother." How do you know? "They look alike. Their eyes are the same shape." How do you know which one is the teacher? "She is older."

Observation (eye shape, hair style, hair color, clothing, body shape, facial features, posture, position, shirt buttons and placket, etc.) is mixed up with deduction (woman/girl, teacher, grandmother) and knowledge (teachers are usually older than students, grandmothers often teach granddaughters, needlepoint is usually learned at home, showing how work is done is part of teaching, women often wear their hair long in certain styles, women's blouses often button from the opposite side of men's shirts).

Attentive seeing requires close observation and skepticism (the use of doubt to fend off deduction that is lacking in strength). Verification, in Jacotot's sense, is about tracing deduction back to observation and using observation to test knowledge.