In this Facts Inference and Judgement questions article, the following topics are discussed:

  • Why Facts Inference and Judgement?
  • Facts Inference and Judgement: The Question Contents
  • How to Ascertain and Approach?
  • Understanding the Theory
  • How to Use the Theory?
  • How to Arrive at the Answer Option?
  • Inferences Vs Judgments

WHY FACT, INFERENCE AND JUDGEMENT

Sometimes instead of regular random type of jumbled paragraphs, 4 questions on fact-inference-judgement are placed. The questions are based on logical and critical reasoning than the contents of verbal ability.

Apart from questions in Logical Reasoning in Verbal Ability section these questions also needed the application of logical instincts.


FACT, INFERENCE AND JUDGEMENT : THE QUESTION CONTENTS

The question on Fact-Inference-Judgment, as shared by Prof S K Agarwal, expert on Verbal Ability in CAT preparation consists of usually 4 sequentially ordered statements, as is also specified in the direction to approach the answer option. These sentences despite having separate entity are on a same topic.

Although the direction describes all the 3 aspects i.e. Facts, Inference and Judgment, it is not necessary that there should the sentences of all the 3 types. There can be one or more than one sentence of one type and another type might be missing.


HOW TO ASCERTAIN AND APPROACH?

Have you ever been accused of “putting 2 and 2 together and making 5”, meaning that the other person thinks you have jumped to the wrong conclusion?

In today’s fast-moving world, we are always under pressure to act now, rather than spend time reasoning things through and thinking about the true facts. Not only can this lead us to a wrong conclusion, but it can also cause conflict with other people, who may have drawn quite different conclusions on the same matter.

Especially in a fast business environment, you need to make sure your actions and decisions are founded on reality. Similarly, when you accept or challenge other people’s conclusions, you need be confident that their reasoning, and yours, is firmly based on the true facts. The “Ladder of Inference” helps you achieve this.

Sometimes known as the “Process of Abstraction”, this tool helps you understand the thinking steps that can lead you to jump to wrong conclusions, and so helps you get back to hard reality and facts.


UNDERSTANDING THE THEORY

The Ladder of Inference describes the thinking process that we go through, usually without realizing it, to get from a fact to a decision or action. The thinking stages can be seen as rungs on a ladder and are shown.

LADDER OF INFERENCE

  • ACTIONS
  • BELIEFS
  • CONCLUSIONS
  • ASSUMPTIONS
  • INTERPRETED REALITY
  • SELECTED REALITY
  • REALITY AND FACTS

Starting at the bottom of the ladder, we have reality and facts. From there, we:

  • Experience these selectively based on our beliefs and prior experience.
  • Interpret what they mean.
  • Apply our existing assumptions, sometimes without considering them.
  • Draw conclusions based on the interpreted facts and our assumptions.
  • Develop beliefs based on these conclusions.
  • Take actions that seem “right” because they are based on what we believe.

This can create a vicious circle. Our beliefs have a big effect on how we select from reality, and can lead us to ignore the true facts altogether. Soon we are literally jumping to conclusions – by missing facts and skipping steps in the reasoning process.

By using the Ladder of Inference, you can learn to get back to the facts and use your beliefs and experiences to positive effect, rather than allowing them to narrow your field of judgment. Following this step-by-step reasoning can lead you to better results, based on reality, so avoiding unnecessary mistakes and conflict.


HOW TO USE THE THEORY

The Ladder of Inference helps you draw better conclusions, or challenge other people’s conclusions based on true facts and reality. It can be used to help you analyze hard data, such as a set of sales figures, or to test assertions, such as “the project will go live in April”. You can also use it to help validate or challenge other people’s conclusions.

The step-by-step reasoning process helps you remain objective and, when working or challenging others, reach a shared conclusion without conflict.

Tip 1:
Use the Ladder of Inference at any of stage of your thinking process. If you’re asking any of the following questions, the model may prove a useful aid:

  • Is this the “right” conclusion?
  • Why am I making these assumptions?
  • Why do I think this is the “right” thing to do?
  • Is this really based on all the facts?
  • Why does he believe that?

Use the following steps to challenge thinking using the Ladder of Inference:

  1. Stop! It’s time to consider your reasoning.
  2. Identify where on the ladder you are. Are you:
    • Selecting your data or reality?
    • Interpreting what it means?
    • Making or testing assumptions?
    • Forming or testing conclusions?
    • Deciding what to do and why?
  3. From your current “rung”, analyze your reasoning by working back down the ladder. This will help you trace the facts and reality that you are actually working with.
  4. At each stage, ask yourself WHAT you are thinking and WHY. As you analyze each step, you may need to adjust your reasoning. For example you may need to change some assumption or extend the field of data you have selected.
  5. The following questions help you work backwards (coming down the ladder, starting at the top):
    • Why have I chosen this course of action? Are there other actions I should have considered?
    • What belief leads to that action? Was it well-founded?
    • Why did I draw that conclusion? Is the conclusion sound?
    • What am I assuming, and why? Are my assumptions valid?
    • What data have I chosen to use and why? Have I selected data rigorously?
    • What are the real facts that I should be using? Are there other facts I should consider?

Tip 2:
When you are working through your reasoning, look out for rungs that you tend to jump. Do you tend to make assumptions too easily? Do you tend to select only part of the data? Note you tendencies so that you can learn to do that stage of reasoning with extra care in the future.

  1. With a new sense of reasoning (and perhaps a wider field of data and more considered assumptions), you can now work forwards again – step-by-step – up the rungs of the ladder.

Tip 3:
Try explaining your reasoning to a colleague or friend. This will help you check that your argument is sound.

If you are challenging someone else’s conclusions, it is especially important to be able to explain your reasoning so that you can explain it to that person in a way that helps you reach a shared conclusion and avoid conflict.

Example

The regional Sales Manager has just read the latest sales figures. Sales in Don’s territory are down – again. It’s simply not good enough. He needs to be fired!

Most people would agree that the Sales Manager may have just jumped to a rash conclusion. So let’s see how the scenario plays using the Ladder of Inference:

The latest month’s sales figures (reality) have come in, and the Sales Manager immediately focuses on Don’s territory (selected reality). Sales are down on the previous months again (interpreted reality). The Sales Manager assumes that the drop in sales is entirely to do with the Don’s performance (assumption), and decides that Don hasn’t been performing well (conclusion). So he forms the opinion that Don isn’t up to the job (belief). He feels that firing Don is the best option (action).

Now let’s challenge the Sales Manager’s thinking using the Ladder of Inference:

The Sales Manager came to the sales figures with an existing belief that Don, a new salesman, couldn’t possibly be as good as the “old-timers” who he has trained for years. He focused on Don’s territory because Don is the newest salesman, and selected facts that supported what he already believed (that Don wouldn’t be doing a good job).

To get back to facts and reality, we must challenge the Sales Manager’s selection of data and his assumptions about Don’s likely performance.

Although the figures are down in Don’s territory, they have actually dipped less than in other areas. Don is actually a great salesman, but he and his colleagues have in fact been let down by new products being delayed, and by old products running out of stock.

Once the Sales Manager changes his assumptions, he will see the need to focus on solving the production issues. He can also learn from Don – how is it that Don has performed better than other sales people in the face of stock problems? Can others learn from him?


HOW TO ARRIVE AT THE ANSWER OPTION?

FACTS: 

Deal with pieces of information that one has heard, seen or read, and which are open to discovery or verification. The key word here is “verification”. A fact is a statement that can be “verified”, i.e. a fact is either true or false. Facts are statements that may involve numbers, natural phenomena, dates etc.

The characteristics of the statements classified as facts are:

  1. Made after observation or experience. An event cannot become a fact unless it has occurred.
  2. Confined to what one observes; cannot be made about the future.
    Limited number possible.
  3. Not perception dependent. A fact will be agreed to by every person. It does not change from person to person.
  4. Tends to bring people together in agreement.

Examples

1)      Nearly 2 lakh students took BEC Vantage last year.
2)      Life exists on other planets (although physically not possible to verify, this statement will be either true or false).
3)      I like Pink Floyd more than Metallica (It may not seem so, but this statement is either true or false. Either I like Pink Floyd more than Metallica or I don’t).
4)      The legislature is advocating vigorously against intrusion of judiciary in parliamentary affairs.
5)      A football field is 100 yards long.

NOTE: Notice the difference when a sentence contains subjective or abstract expressions-

6)      The music was very loud (NOT a fact as the loudness might vary from person to person).
7)      I found the music very loud (A fact as it is either a truth or a lie. I must have found the music very loud or not very loud).
8)      Poverty is a curse on mankind (NOT a fact… “curse on mankind” is too abstract).
9)      20% of the population lives below poverty line (Fact).

INFERENCES: 

Are conclusions drawn about the unknown, on the basis of the known.

  1. Results of some action taken or incident taken place.

Ever since the bridge collapsed, the villagers are facing a big problem to go to town

  1. Expectations or possibilities of something happening as a result of something else.

If there is an earthquake, people will be killed

  1.  Any proverb that functions on cause and effect

An apple a day, keeps the doctor away

Notice the three words “conclusions”, “known” and “unknown” very carefully. They will give you complete description of what an inference consists of-

  1. Known- A fact. The first thing an inference should consist of a fact. This fact is required to prove another proposition.
  2. Unknown- Something which can be logically proved by the given fact or the “known”. Therefore, in an inference an unknown proposition is present which is to be proved with the help of the fact. Remember that this proposition has to be proved with the help of another fact.
  3. Conclusion- Once the unknown has been proved with the help of the known (fact) it is called a conclusion.

Notice the meaning of the word “Infer”. To infer means to conclude from evidence; to deduce to have a logical consequence. (an inference = a conclusion)

Therefore, the process of inference can be summarized by:
FACT + LOGIC OF DEDUCTION + CONCLUSION = INFERENCE

Example

1)      Because the old man stayed indoors all the time and did not receive any visitors, no one discovered his dead body for days.
(the green part is the fact and the brown part is the conclusion. Notice that without the explanation given by the fact, you cannot convincingly prove the conclusion.)
2)      The footprint warned Robinson Crusoe that there was someone else on the island.

JUDGEMENTS: 

Are opinions that imply approval or disapproval of persons, objects, situations, and occurrences in the past, the present or the future. So judgements are personal opinions and subjective.  The following information is helpful in classifiying judgements

  1. Statement that imply “approval” or “disapproval”

What a magnificent view!

  1. Statements that “impose compulsion” using should or must

You should work harder

  1. Statement that “compare” non – measurable things

He is the best boy in class

  1. Statements modify the nature of attributes.

You are running very slowly

  1. Statements of prediction using will or shall

I will become the Captain of the team

  1. Proverbs and maxims which are not universal truths

Honesty is the best policy (how do we verify?)


INFERENCE VS JUDGEMENT

There is a fine line of distinction between inferences and judgments. Most of the times judgments are also based on facts and therefore they seem like inferences. But there are some ways to differentiate a judgment and an inference-

  • Judgments are arguable and contestable. Inferences are rock solid. Although both judgments and inferences are based on facts, in the latter the conclusion is so unquestionable that it becomes fact itself.
  • Judgments are opinions, suggestions and recommendations whereas inferences are proved conditions.
  • Judgment statements include a lot of quantities that cannot be measured, such as happiness, beauty, joy etc.
  • Many a times, judgments are not accompanied by facts at all but are only opinion statements. When there is no fact involved, the statement can only be a judgment statement.
  • A judgment is an honest attempt to make reasonable observations about the given facts but they do not conclusively prove anything.

Examples

1)      It is estimated that that 30% of Indians live below poverty line. (judgment: if it is an estimate, it cannot be a fact).
2)      Every mother has only the best interests of her children at her heart. (Is there a way to look inside a mother’s heart?).
3)      Because we had three wars with our neighboring country, we should keep our armed forced ready for the fourth one.