KINDS OF INFERENCES
Alice was considering, in her own mind…whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.
There was nothing very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!" (when she thought it over afterwards it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat pocket and looked at it and hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.
In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.
from Alice In Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
Earlier we said that an inference is a mental judgement about some matter. It's a decision about what something is; what something means; what something implies. We also said before that good inference-making is necessary for good reasoning. But we need to back up a little now before continuing. We need to take a closer look at what we mean by inference-making.
Alice's reasoning problem concerning the Duchess occurred because she relied upon the one size fits all technique of reasoning. She used simple induction for all of the reasoning functions she performed. Simple induction (which rests upon the ability to directly match up one thing to another) is only one way of making inferences. The other two sorts of inference-making methods are deduction and abduction.
Deductive inference-making requires the ability to identify contexts and apply analysis skills such as classification, structure analysis, and operation (or systems) analysis to the solving of problems.
Abductive inference-making requires the ability to wonder about the qualities of things--to imagine what might be true; what might work; what might be worth doing; what the implications of something might be. So here are the three inference-making methods and what they are used for: