The Ladder of Inference – A Close Look

The Ladder of Inference – A Close Look


Many a times we go on and read a situation in a different way from what it actually is, this leads to an amazing feeling when the outcome is correct. However, if we reach the wrong outcome then it is a very frustrating issue. Nowadays we have to move fast or else get crushed in the fast moving process of the world. We sometimes avoid thinking closely regarding the situation and just jump the gun on to the result. This although can save time but also sometimes it can lead to the wrong conclusion. In the business world or even normal life this can lead to conflict with the people concerned specially those who have drawn a different conclusion on the same matter.

In the business sector you need to know what you are doing and keep things real. You cannot use your instincts and there are no short cuts. If you accept and challenge other people results you need to have the confidence regarding the fact that theirs and yours reasoning are based on true facts. This is the issue which the ladder of inference helps you with.

It is also known as the process of abstraction and this tool will help you to understand the steps that and lead you to jump to wrong decisions and keep a check on reality and facts.


Understanding the Theory

The Ladder of Inference is the description of the thinking process we go through when we jump from a fact to an action or decision. The process is a simple break down of which factors we need to keep in mind when we go through the process. We need to make sure that we do not slip away from reality and let our instincts take over. That can be a major problem which can cause bad decisions and break down the entire process of work completely, especially in the business sector. We all have this habit of being fast and it’s at times like this we need to remember that facts are a bit more important that instinct. There are a are a few steps involved in the process of inference. Think of the process as a ladder where as the higher you climb the better decision you will take.

These steps are:

  1. Actions
  2. Beliefs
  3. Conclusions
  4. Assumptions
  5. Interpreted reality
  6. Selected Reality
  7. Reality and facts

We start from the bottom of the ladder which is reality and facts. Here we experience the selectivity based on beliefs and prior experience. Then we interpret what the options mean. After that we apply our current thoughts or assumption onto then and sometimes we don’t consider them if we think it is not needed. Then we draw conclusions based on the resulted facts and assumptions. Then we will need to develop the beliefs on these conclusions. And finally we need to take the actions which we believe is right. This is a possible vicious circle. Sometimes our beliefs can be so powerful that we may ignore the true facts altogether and act on our instincts. This is to be avoided. We must not jump to conclusions and this step by step reasoning will help you to lead to a better result which is based on reality and avoids unnecessary mistakes.

How to Use the Theory

As mentioned before the ladder of inference helps you to draw better conclusions and help in the decision making. It is used to analyze data and it can also be used to validate or challenge any other individual’s conclusions.

You can use this process at any stage of your thinking. Giving you compete freedom and you can ask a few things which will help you to reach a decision. Ask yourself first:

  1. Is this is the right conclusion?
  2. Why are you making these assumptions?
  3. Why is it that you think this is the right thing to do?
  4. Have you covered all the facts?
  5. Why do you believe that?

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The following steps will help you to challenge thinking with the Ladder of Inference process:
Consider what you are doing and your reasoning.

Identify in which position you are on the ladder.

Have you selected your data or entry? Have you interpretive its meanings? Have you made testing assumptions? Have you formed the testing conclusions? Have you decided what to do and why? These are the factors which come under this step which you need to focus on.

From here you must consider your ideas and start working on the ladder theory. You will be able to trace the facts and come to better conclusions this way. At every step ask what you are thinking. Also ask yourself why. Adjust your reasoning where it is required.

Now focus on the facts that are you too impatient? Do you normally jump a few steps in this process? If that is the case then stop doing that. Each of the steps helps in making a uniform and clear decision. And jumping a step can make you the entire process fall apart. Do not do this. Make sure you go through every step and have patience.

Explain your assumptions to a friend and see what they say. This way you will know how sound is your argument. If you will be offering challenge to the conclusions of someone else with this theory you need to be certain that you explain your reasoning very clearly and leave nothing unsaid. Also try to avoid conflict and try to see conclusions from your partner’s point of view. His will help you avoid conflicts.

To Sum Up

If you follow these certain aspects of the Theory of Inference you will be able to make far better decisions and avoid jumping to conclusion s based on instincts. Your logical thinking will prevail and emotions will be scrapped aside. This is a must do for anyone in the work story however this theory is a sound process for your daily life decisions as well. Make sure you go through this process and you can be sure that you will be making better decisions in no time.

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