Inferential Thinking: What it Is and How to Develop It

When we read a text, as well as when we observe around us, our mind performs a series of activities or tasks that allow us to understand the content of these beyond the explicit information that we receive from them.

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When we read a text, as well as when we observe around us, our mind performs a series of activities or tasks that allow us to understand the content of these beyond the explicit information that we receive from them.

This process of perception and elaboration of the information that has as a product the production a series of conclusions is known as inferential thinking. In this article we will discuss the characteristics of this procedure, as well as the different types that exist and how to enhance their development.

What is inferential thinking?

By inferential thinking we understand the ability or ability to interpret, combine ideas and develop a series of conclusions from certain data or information perceived. Thanks to this ability, we can determine or identify certain information that is not explicitly found at the source.

For this the person uses their own cognitive schemes and previous experiences, as well as a series of scripts and models provided by the culture itself.

This term comes from the field of psycholinguistics, which attributed it to the second level that reaches the person in a process of reading comprehension. Within which allows the reader to draw conclusions beyond the information obtained directly from the text.

This skill consists of a very complex process in which the reader makes a cognitive elaboration of the information obtained in the text, which is combined with the mental schemas themselves to give as a result the representation of the meaning of a writing.

However, this sense that is given to the information does not start directly from the written words but from the cognition of the reader himself. This means that the inferential thought goes beyond the limit of the comprehension of the information expressed in the text in an explicit way, since it forces the reader to use his own scripts or cognitive schemes in order to reach that understanding.

The components of this psychological process

In order to perform the entire process of inferential thinking, the person needs the correct functioning of three essential elements:

1. Sensory system

It allows us to perceive and treat the information we receive through sight and hearing

2. Work memory

Processing and integration of information is performed while it is received

3. Long-term memory

Its main function is to store the mental schemes through which we can carry out inferential thinking

In conclusion, the achievement of the correct functioning of inferential thinking not only helps us to understand information, but also helps us to understand the world around us. All this without having to resort to the direct or explicit information that this provides us.

What types are there?

As we commented, inferential thinking allows us to elaborate representations or cognitive images based on sensory information and using our own mental schemas. The product of this process is known as inference, there are different types of these according to their degree of complexity.

1. Global inferences

Also called “coherent inferences”, they are the product of an inferential thought process in which information is organized into large thematic units that allow us to associate textual information with information from our memory.
This means that the reader draws up a series of conclusions or general resolutions as a result of the whole of the text he has just read.

An example of global inferences can be found in the understanding of the moral of a story or when we think about the intention of the writer of the work.

2. Local inferences

Known also as cohesive inferences, these inferences help us to understand and draw conclusions from a text while we are reading it. In them interpretations are made from specific information of a specific paragraph or phrase,

Thanks to them we can give meaning to the information read, during the same moment of reading.

3. Post-reading inferences

These types of inferences are given once the person has finished reading the text and its main function is to understand the reason for certain events or events that are reported in the text.

For example, they refer to the interpretation of some causal consequences that may appear in the narrative. That is, the person can understand the reason for the concrete events that occur in the text.

How can we develop it?

Because inferential thinking is a skill, it develops throughout the life of the person and as such, is capable of training and developing through a series of techniques or strategies.

This capacity can already be observed in children of only three years. Therefore, from this age we can promote the development of inferential thinking and thus favor both the reading comprehension of the child and the understanding of what happens around him.

For this, we can use some tools or strategies specially developed to develop this ability. However, as it is a gradual progress, we must take into account the child’s level of development and adapt these techniques to their abilities.

Some of the tools that favor inferential thinking are:

1. Choice of appropriate texts

The choice of texts whose level of difficulty is appropriate for the child’s abilities is essential as a first step when developing inferential thinking.

The texts should pose a small challenge for the reader. That is, they can give rise to a certain level of inference but without being too complicated, since otherwise it can generate feelings of frustration or boredom.

2. Ask questions about the text

Prepare questions about the text that require a certain degree of inference, that is, do not ask about things that are explicitly expressed, as well as ask the student to make their own observations and draw conclusions about the narration.

3. Make predictions

Another option is to ask the child to try to predict what will happen next, while he is reading. Ask him to elaborate his own theories and hypotheses and to explain on what basis these conclusions.

4. Learning by modeling

Finally, in smaller children or with less abilities, the educator himself can serve as a model when carrying out differential thinking. To do this, he must describe the mental process he is performing, in this way the child is provided with an example of a pattern that he can imitate.