"The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain't so."
— Mark Twain
"Just because nobody complains doesn't mean all parachutes are perfect."
— Benny Hill
A sane judgement requires a careful distinction between two kind of ideas that we have on the external world. They are named observations and inferences.
Observations result from personal perception. To observe something, we must see, hear, feel, taste. The inferences are decisions on the meanings of our observations.
These two types of ideas are essential to our own functionning, but when we confuse inferences and observations, we have some troubles.
Carefully read the following story, assuming that all it says is accurate. But, at times, they are deliberately vague. Do not try to memorise it, since you may refer back to the story whenever you wish.
To simplify that test, we consider that all what the characters claim to have observed is also accurate.
Read then the numbered statements and decide if each one of them is true, false or doubtful to you. Clicking the "T" means that you are sure that the statement is definitely true. Clicking the "F", means you are sure that it is definitely false. Clicking the "?", that you cannot decide whether it is true or false. If any part of the statement is doubtful, click the "?".
Answer each statement, without going back to change a preceding answer. Do not re-read the assertions after having answered. These changes or second readings would alter the results of this test.
If you mail your answers, a correction will be returned to you. Only the final result will appear, expressed as a percentage number of correct answers.
Story 1 (easy)
Story 2 (more difficult)
Story 3 (intermediate difficulty)
|Typical errors about Inference Tests
The most usual error about inferences is to believe "observation is good, inference is bad." Stuart Chase has made this error in his popularisation of general semantics, The Tyranny of Words. As stated in the introduction of our tests, "A sane judgement requires a careful distinction between two kind of ideas that we have on the external world. They are named observations and inferences." What we say here is that we need to discriminate the two, not that one is 'bad' and the other 'good'. A person cannot survive long or even avoid making inferences of some kind. It is also clear that even observation involve some inferencing, at least from the event level (remember for example that what we see in three dimensions is an interpretation of two 'flat' images on our retinas). For more details, read Inference Tests and GS.