Monday, December 11, 2006

The Ladder of Inference

As some of you know, I started back at City College Norwich a month or so ago to do a City & Guilds Level 2 in 'Supporting the development Needs of the Homeless and Vulnerable'.

It's basically about how we (people) learn, what stops us, and what helps us (and then how to apply all of that to Support Work.) I thought it would be good to share some of what I've learnt.

Now, I could cover things like Socio-cultural Learning or Neuroscience, but this is the 'I can't believe it's not butter' version, so let me tell you about the ladder of inference...

It's basically a model that helps to show how we form our beliefs about the world around us. This diagram is about the best I could find:

The process starts at the bottom.

For example, Norwich City FC loses 2-1 (dangerous territory I know.)

The fans did not sing as much as normal.

The fans singing affects the players performance.

The fans did not like the match they saw.

The fans do not like the players.

(Don't forget that these are the opposite way round to the diagram.)

I hope that makes sense.

I think that we believe what we choose to believe, and that we are very selective in what we see of the world. I also think that this can be quite dangerous, because we can make our assumptions and conclusions based on either not enough information or almost worse, the wrong information.

So what do we do about it?

Well, it seems to me that we should base our beliefs on a reasonable amount on 'selected data'.
We should also be prepared to review our beliefs if new or different data is available.

If a belief is true, it will withstand any amount of reviews!

In the context that I use this ladder at College and Work, the belief in question is often a negative one; "I can't do anything right!" and I have to say that you normally only get to see the process in reverse. That is, you meet someone who believes something, and if you want to help them review it or change is, you have to work backwards and look at how that belief was formed.

So, someone who thinks they can't do anything right must have a reason or an experience that they base this belief on.

Maybe they selected the wrong 'data' from the experience, maybe they drew the wrong conclusions?

Maybe we all have wrong beliefs, and I'm not just talking about spiritual ones. Maybe they need to change if we're to grow?

In my experience, God has helped me to change my beliefs or perceptions, and I know I have grown. I also know that if he hadn't, I wouldn't be doing the job I am now.

Anything you need to change?

1 comment:

  1. That's really interesting stuff.

    There are people who think that we don't choose our beliefs - that belief isn't voluntary:

    As for the 'reflexive loop', I think it affects the 'meaning' bit as well as the 'data selection' bit.