Language is said to be very dynamic. Words can have different meanings to different people, which I every dependent on what the terms are taken to mean. Furthermore, there are words such as synonyms which have similar meanings. At times, the tone and pronunciation of the words tend to give it the intended meaning. In other cases, words can have different meanings to people from different regions. Based on this understanding, the term inference is used on various occasions to denote different aspects. Below is a definition of the term and the instances in which it can be used.
Cuesta College (2003) argues that the term "infer" is used in situations where certainty cannot be achieved. However, this does not imply that the meaning has to be ambiguous. Rather, it has to be in such a manner that the meaning cannot be disputed. It should be an in-depth analysis of the situation with a conclusion drawn from the evidence available. Inferring means “going beyond the surface details to see other meanings that the details suggest or imply” (Cuesta College Para 3). This indicates that inferring is getting an indefinite solution to a problem which as been derived from consideration of the available options and alternatives. It is not a mere argument which cannot be supported. It is empirical, testable, and verifiable. It is a connotation of a judgment or a final conclusion which comes from an informed point of view. The process leading to inference can be a research process, the senses such as smell, taste, sight, feeling, or any other process which can lead to the conclusion. Based on these indications, the meaning of the term inference is quite broad. It can be used in various situations. Some of these are as indicated in the paragraphs below.
An instance in which inference can be made is through research. According to Bird (2011) inference can be used when carrying out empirical research. More often than not, there are instances when the researcher has to collect a lot of information. Through this information, a conclusion has to be reached. This is through the data analysis which has to be done using mathematical and statistical analysis. In the long run, the conclusion comes about as an inference; it is not very certain yet it cannot be disputed since it is based on the collected evidence.
Bird (432) goes on to indicate that this kind of statistical inference can be divided into two major categories. There is the deduced inference. This has to come from the analysis of the bulk data that has been collected. For instance, a researcher might want to get the meaning of a certain practice to a given people. He carries out a qualitative study where he gathers a lot of information from the people as pertains to that practice. In the long run, he looks at the data and the response of the respondents. It comes out thematically as to what the respondents mean. The conclusion, therefore, may not tally with any of their responses but agrees greatly with most of them. This is a kind of deduced inference or conclusion extracted from a large amount of data or information.
Direct inference can also be used in the research. This is where a researcher does not to go into much depth about the meaning of a practice or concept since it is so obvious. Under such circumstances, it is just adopted as it is. The researcher might not have an understanding as to why the meaning is adopted by the study group but since they all agree on it, it is automatically accepted. Bird (440), therefore, indicates that direct inference is a direct adoption of a meaning. It is taken as it is.
Malle and Holbrook (662) also bring about another meaning of inference. This is taken from the social circles. They indicate that more often than not, people tend to seize others and make judgments from them based on how they act, talk, walk, dress, or even behave. Under such circumstances, there is no evidence as to how or why people make such judgments. All they do is argue that the personalities tend to show the characters they are defined with.
This kind of inference can be in four different ways. First of all, there is intentionality. Malle and Holbrook (663) argue that intentionality is used to infer people’s characters based on their willingness to do something, or their inclination towards something. These inferences often lead to nicknaming of individuals based on the activities they engage in. belief is also used to infer who people are. This is a very common practice in the modern world, especially after the terrorist threats and the attacks on America. The people from Islam belief tend to be associated with terrorism. This is a good indication of how inference can be used.
Desire is also another avenue used in inference. An individual's desires tend to motivate him to act or behave in a given way. Due to these desires, the individual can be inferred to as being ambitious, organized, well motivated, and hardworking among others. This is greatly dependent on the desires which propel them. To a great deal, personality acts as the greatest route of inference. Malle and Holbrook (67) have it that an individual is taken as who he is. The character tends to play a major role in this. It can help in commanding respect, awe, despise, or even adoration. An individual’s personality can lead to positive or negative inference. It al depends on who he portrays himself as to the rest.
Based on the above arguments, it can be said that inference is subject to an individual’s state of mind. It can also be affected by the cultural background, traditions, beliefs, or pother social norms that exist in a given society. Given the manner in which an individual aligns himself to these aspects, the social inference can be positive or negative. On the other hand, statistical inference is more solid since it is dependent on the availability of evidence. There is no way a conclusion can be made without going through the proper process which involves data collection and analysis. It is only in the final stage of the analysis that the inference can be made. This is very dependent on the nature and kind of data collected, as opposed to social inference which is based on how the society perceives a given individual or situation. In a nutshell, it can be argued that inference is the final judgment or conclusion that can be derived form a fact-finding experience or from the social experience that people have. It is a solid conclusion which can be verified and justified based on the process used to reach at it.
Bird, Kevin D. “Deduced Inference in the Analysis of Experimental Data.” Psychological Methods, 16.4, Dec. 2011: 432-443.
Cuesta College. “Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions.” Cuesta.edu, 2003. Web. 8th April 2013, http://academic.cuesta.edu/acasupp/AS/309.HTM
Malle, Bertram F. & Holbrook, Jess. “Is There a Hierarchy of Special Inferences? The Likelihood and Speed of Inferring Intentionality, Mind, and Personality.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102.4, Apr. 2012: 661-684.