Inference: Inference EquationsInferences are not random.
Inferences follow rules. Not mathematical
rules, but rules based on common experience and social conventions.
We draw inferences from the relationships of
certain ideas, and can, in effect, write "equations" to suggest this
Consider the following two
The stock market fell.
Burger King laid off 1,000 workers.We have two separate assertions:
That the stock market fell and that Burger King laid off 1,000 workers.
But watch what happens when the ideas are
related in specific ways.
Relating the assertions generates a wide variety of
Categories and Terms)
- The stock market fell, after Burger King laid off 1,000 workers.
- The stock market fell, because Burger King laid off 1,000 workers.
- The stock market fell, therefore Burger King laid off 1,000 workers.
- The stock market fell, but Burger King laid off 1,000 workers.
In this first case,
from evidence of change following an action (after), we might infer the
action caused the change (This does not, of course, necessarily follow.
Just because one event precedes another does
not necessarily mean it caused it.)
In the second, the relationship is of reason/conclusion (because): the fall in the stock market
is explained by the layoffs.
In the third, the relationship is again reason/conclusion (therefore), but now the layoffs are
explained by the fall of the stock market.
In the fourth sentence, the relationship is of contrast (but), with the suggestion that the
events are unrelated.
With each set of assertions we draw inferences based on the
relationship of the ideas.
The overall meaning is conveyed not only by the individual
assertions, the content, but also by how the elements of the content are
related to one another, the structure.
We identify the nature and relationship of parts, and infer underlying
or unspoken meanings.
Consider another set of examples.
- Burger King's layoffs might have been the cause of the stock market's drop.
- Burger King's layoffs caused the drop in the stock market.
- Burger King laid off workers because of a drop in the stock market.
- The stock market drop did not effect Burger King's laying off of workers.
The class went to the beach and
it rained.The information is the same in all three sentences:
The class went to the beach although it rained.
The class went to the beach
The class went to the beachBut the relationship of the two assertions is different in
The meaning of each sentence is therefore different:
- The class went to the beach
- The class went to the beach [in contrast
to] it rained.
- The class went to the beach [earlier in time
than] it rained.
Depending on the relationship between the two assertions,
the class is portrayed as disappointed, determined, or lucky.
- bad luck
- perseverance or determination
- good planning
What information would be needed, and
how would it be related, to show:
A lack of self esteem.