The Uncritical Inference Test
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This test tries to show up how we jump to conclusions, by unconsciously making incorrect inferences based on the facts given. It will also test your ability to evaluate accurately. The test follows these steps:
T stands for a definitely True statement about the information given in the story.
F stands for a definitely False statement about the information given in the story.
? stands for a statement that could be true or false but based on the information in the story, you cannot tell which, for certain. So you are unsure to some degree.
Note: There is no time limit on this test and you may refer back to the story as often as you like.
A sample story and test is given below with correct answers.
A white van parked in the drive of 70 Higg's Road has "Ruddenklau Electrical Nelson Ltd" painted on the side of it in large red letters.
Statements about the sample story, with correct answers.
Now try your skill on the next story. Remember to only answer True or False if you are certain that the statement is correct or incorrect.
Test Story 1
A couple decided to go boating on a sunny summers day. He packed the fishing rods in the speed boat, then asked his wife if the petrol tank was full. She said, "Yes, the petrol tank is full." They drove down to the jetty and launched the boat. The couple then sped out onto the sea in the speed boat. After going for about ten minutes the speed boat's motor spluttered then stopped. They arrived back at the shore several hours later.
How to improve your test score
You can do this by learning about how you make uncritical inferences and how to remedy this.
One of the main ways that we do this is by mixing up statements of facts with inferences. Below I give a list of some of the differences between statements of fact and those of inference.
Another difference between statements of fact and inference is their order in the abstracting process. By "abstracting process", I mean the process we humans use the to gain information about reality/the world.
The natural abstracting order goes through the following levels:
1st Reality (or "the territory" as general semanticists call it.)
2nd Observations of reality. E.g. seeing, hearing, touching, etc. We call these "facts". This is our non-verbal perception of reality. (General semanticists call this the "object level".)
3rd Statements of fact. I.e. direct descriptions of the observation. (We are now at the lowest verbal abstracting level.)
4th Statements involving inferences. I.e. we go beyond the direct description of the observation.
5th Etc. More inferences, evaluations, theories, etc, etc. These can go on indefinitely. For as many levels as you like.
So facts and statements of facts are more basic than inferences. I.e. they come earlier in the natural abstracting process. Confusing or identifying these different levels can lead to problems.
The whole abstracting process both leaves out information from the previous level and adds in new information that was not present at the previous level. So watch out for significant information left out and/or new incorrect information added in.
Examples of inferences:
In the sample story the statement "The color of the van parked in the drive of 1 Higg's Road is white." is a factual statement because it only describes the facts stated in the story.
Whereas the statement "An electrical appliance has broken down at 1 Higg's Road." goes beyond the information in the story by inferring that an electrician owns the van and is on a service call to this address. I.e. the inference goes beyond the stated facts.
Similarly, the statement "The van belongs to Mr Ruddenklau." goes beyond the description that the van has "Ruddenklau Electrical Nelson Ltd" painted on the side, to infer that only the person who owns it would have their name on it, because this is normally the case. This is not necessarily true however as the van could be: leased or have been sold to someone else who has yet to remove the lettering, etc.
Other examples of inferential statements are:
"Mrs Peel is rich because she drives a Porsche."
"My wife is always checking on me to see if I'm cheating."
"My husband is lazy because he just lies in his armchair when he gets home after work."
"People don't like me because I have pimples."
"The owners of the business I work for, make all the money."
None of these are necessarily correct statements. They go beyond what is observed. For instance, Mrs Peel may rent the car she drives, etc. I leave it up to you to work out other possible conclusions to the above inferences. While they may likely be true, they are not ALWAYS true. And you could get into problems by assuming that they are true.
Some solutions to inferential problems
Try to do the following with your own evaluating:
Also, if people try to pass off inferences as factual statements, ask them:
For more information on uncritical inferences, try reading some general semantics texts, like Why Do We Jump to Conclusions? by Dr. Sanford. I. Berman. Or some other book on the general semantics reading list.
Now try applying the above formulations with this second test story. Remember, only choose True or False if you are certain. And do not go back to change any answer.
Test Story 2
Mr Gosane, whose first name is Fred, has behaved abnormally for the past week. He has
missed work because of this. His wife Pat, who has had enough of this, decided to call
their doctor. Later that day, the only car parked in Fred's driveway is a bright red car
with the letters "Dr A. Korzybski" painted on it. Upstairs in Fred's bedroom, a
light is on.
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