Inferential thinking: what it is and how to develop it

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

This process of perception and elaboration of information which has as product the production of a series of conclusions this is called inferential thinking. In this article, we will talk about the features of this procedure, as well as the different types that exist and how to improve its development.

    What is inferential thinking?

    By inferential thinking we mean the ability or ability to interpret, combine ideas, and draw a series of conclusions from certain data or perceived information. With this ability, we can determine where identify certain information that is not explicitly found in the source.

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

    this term comes from the field of psycholinguisticsThis attributes it to the second level that reaches the person in a process of reading comprehension. In which it allows the reader to draw conclusions beyond the information obtained directly from the text.

    This ability consists of a very complex process in which the reader carries out a cognitive elaboration of the information obtained in the text, which is combined with the mental patterns themselves to result in the representation of the meaning of a writing.

    However, this meaning which is given to information does not start directly from the written words but from the knowledge of the own reader. It means inferential thinking it transcends the limit of understanding the information explicitly contained in the textAs this forces the reader to use their own scripts or cognitive patterns to achieve this understanding.

      The components of this psychological process

      In order to carry out the whole inferential thought process, the person needs the proper functioning of three essential elements:

      1. Sensory system

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

      2. Working memory

      Information processing and integration are carried out while this is received

      3. Long-term memory

      Its main function is to store mental patterns through which we can conduct inferential thinking.

      In conclusion, achieving the proper functioning of inferential thinking helps us not only to understand information, but also it helps us understand the world around us. All this without having to resort directly or explicitly to the information it provides us.

      What types are there?

      As we have mentioned, inferential thinking allows us to make cognitive representations or images based on sensory information and using our own mental patterns. The product of this process is known as inference, there are several types depending on 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 in our memory.

      This means that the reader drafts a series of general conclusions or resolutions following the set of text you just read.

      An example of global inference is in understanding the morality of a story or in thinking about the intention of the playwright.

      2. Local inferences

      Also called cohesive inferences, these inferences they help us understand and draw conclusions from a text as we read it. In them, interpretations are made from specific information of a concrete paragraph or sentence,

      Thanks to them, we can make sense of the information read, at the moment of reading.

      3. Inferences after reading

      This type of inference occurs after the person has finished reading the text and its main function is to understand the why of certain events or facts that are related in the text.

      For example, they refer to the interpretation of certain causal consequences that may appear in the story. In other words, the person can understand the why of specific facts that occur in the text.

      How can we develop it?

      Because inferential thinking is a skill, it develops throughout a person’s life and as such is susceptible to training and development through a number of techniques or strategies.

      This ability can be seen already in children as young as three years old.. Therefore, from this age, we can improve the development of inferential thinking and thus promote both the reading comprehension of the little one and the understanding of what is happening around him.

      To do this, we can use specially developed tools or strategies to develop this skill. However, in the event of gradual progress, the child’s level of development must be taken into account and adapt these techniques to their abilities.

      Some of the tools that promote inferential thinking are:

      1. Choice of appropriate texts

      The choice of texts whose level of difficulty is adapted to the capacities of the child is essential as a first step in the development of inferential thinking.

      Texts should be a little challenge for the reader. In other words, they can lead to a certain level of inference but without being too complicated, otherwise they can generate feelings of frustration or boredom.

      2. Ask questions about the text

      Write questions about the text that require some degree of inference, i.e. not asking questions about things that are explicitly embodiedIn addition to asking the student to make their own observations and draw conclusions about the storytelling.

      3. Make predictions

      Another option is to have the child try to predict what will happen next, while the child is reading. Ask them to come up with their own theories and hypotheses and explain what these conclusions are based on.

      4. Modeling of learning

      Finally, in younger or less able children, the educator himself can serve as a role model in terms of differential thinking. To do this, he has to describe the mental process that he is performing, in this way the child receives an example of a model that he can imitate.

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