Ladder of Inference

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t is vital in any group and/or organization to establish and maintain a reliable exchange of valid and verifiable information about important problems and issues. This requires the ability to discriminate among four types of information: description, inference, attribution, and evaluation. A description is a (hopefully objective and reasonably accurate) report or account of an experience or observation. An inference is a conclusion derived from beliefs or what are thought to be facts. An attribution is an ascribed, inferred, or assumed cause, characteristic, or motive of another person. An evaluation is a determination or judgement about the value or "goodness" of a statement or action by another person. The Ladder of Inference Model is a very useful tool for helping individuals become more aware of and discriminate among these four very different types of information and their use in communication.

The Ladder of Inference Model from Action Science is a representation of different ways that individuals make sense of and deal with everyday events. Individuals select and process certain aspects of events, and introduce elements from this processing into their thinking, feeling, and interactions. These elements include inferences, attributions, and evaluations that may have considerable error relative to objective observations of the same events. The further an individual moves or extrapolates from the actual, original data (i.e., the verbatim words spoken and observable actions made by individuals), the greater is the potential error. This model can be useful in helping individuals reduce such errors and the resulting interpersonal problems.

We can consider various numbers of steps on the ladder of inference, starting with the data (the actual statements and actions) and moving progressively further away from the data, e.g., as illustrated in the following steps (read from bottom to top):

5. EVALUATION (of the other person's statements and/or actions)...
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