Thursday, 7 November 2019



People are often lead by jumping to conclusions. These can be correct, but also wrong conclusions and can lead to conflicts with other people. The Ladder of Inference can help you to no longer jump to premature conclusions and to reason on the basis of facts.

This so-called Ladder of Inference was developed by the American Chris Argyris, a former professor at Harvard Business School, in 1970. In 1992, The Ladder of Inference became popular after being described in the bestseller The fifth discipline, which Argyris wrote in collaboration with the American scientist Peter M. Senge.

The Ladder of Inference provides insight into the mental processes that occur within the human brain. It describes the perception starting from senses to the series of mental steps that need to be taken to work towards an action. This human thought process only takes a fraction of a second. That is why people do not realise how they developed a certain action or response; it is done unconsciously. The Ladder of Inference shows how mental models are formed unconsciously. They determine what and how you see and how your thought process and behaviour is led. Every person gives meaning to observations and bases their actions on them.

From bottom to top
The Ladder of Inference consists of seven steps and the reasoning process starts at the bottom of the ladder. People select facts from events, which they translate from prior experiences. These interpreted facts form the basis for assumptions, which in turn lead to certain conclusions. Then a person proceeds to (inter)act. All the steps are listed below, starting from the bottom level:

1. Reality and facts
This level identifies what is directly perceptible. You observe all information from the real world.

2. Selecting facts
From this level, the facts are selected based on convictions and prior experiences. The frame of reference plays a role in this.

3. Interpreting facts
The facts are interpreted and given a personal meaning.

4. Assumptions
At this level, assumptions are made based on the meaning you give to your observations. These assumptions are personal and are different for every individual.

5. Conclusions
At this level, conclusions are drawn based on prior beliefs.

6. Beliefs
At this level, conclusions are drawn based on interpreted facts and prior assumptions.

7. Actions
This is the highest level. Actions are now taken based on prior beliefs and conclusions. The actions that are taken seem to be the best at that particular moment.


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