Inference, Assumptions and
Critical Thinking

Let's take a look at assumptions and critical thinking.

assumptions and critically thinking cat

At first glance, assumptions may not seem like they belong in the critical thinking process.

However, your assumptions are a key factor because they give you quite a bit to think critically about!

In your critical thinking, you need to take any assumptions you have...

...and question them as you try to substantiate them or unsubstantiate them.

With critical thinking and assumptions, it's also important to understand what an inference is and how it relates to the entire process.

Inferences & Assumptions

  • Inference: A conclusion you come to in your mind based on something else that is true or you believe to be true

  • Assumption: Part of your belief system. Something you don't question. Your mind takes for granted that your assumption is true

Your beliefs (assumptions) cause you to come to conclusions (inferences).

Your inferences then cause you to act accordingly.

Ex. If I walk toward you with my hand out and smiling, you'll probably infer that I intend to shake your hand.

Your assumption of my intent is based on similar experiences from your past.

Those past events formed your belief about such situations.

Assumptions and Critical Thinking
Beliefs Aid Decisions

Your assumptions (beliefs) may have merit or they may not. Critical thinking is a process of challenging your beliefs and the inferences (conclusions) they cause you to make.

In our lives, you and I both constantly use our beliefs in order to come to conclusions that enable us to understand and act in the world we live in. The decisions and judgments we make are filtered through our belief system.

Point of View

This is what can cause communication problems. My past experiences may cause me to make assumptions that are entirely different from your assumptions.

We can both see the same event and come to two separate inferences, or two points of view.

If you and I see an ex-smoker dying from lung cancer, one of us may think this person was a victim of advertising, resulting in an addiction to nicotine.

Or, one of us may think the smoker did it to himself because he chose to keep smoking.

Same scenario, two different assumptions that will cause us to interact differently with that situation.

Assumptions and Critical Thinking
Develop an Open Mind

Once you understand how much your beliefs impact your daily actions, you can better see how critical thinking and assumptions mix. You make hundreds of decisions based on your assumptions and corresponding inferences.

Now you can begin to pay attention to how your subconscious mind causes you to act. Have you been allowing yourself to be controlled by beliefs that are wrong or destructive?

It's this type of awareness that leads to critically thinking about and questioning your assumptions. Critical thinking leads to allowing yourself to entertain more than one point of view.

Assumptions and critical thinking lead to a more open mind.

"Did you ever stop to think,
and forget to start again?"

- Winnie the Pooh

"Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion
without the discomfort of thought."

- John F. Kennedy

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