The Ladder of Inference Infographic
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.
In a fast business environment, you need to make sure your actions and decisions are founded on reality. Likewise, 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.
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.