FACTS AND INFERENCES
"You can't think how glad I am to see you again, you dear old thing!" said the Duchess, as she tucked her arm affectionately into Alice's and they walked off together.
Alice was very glad to find her in such a pleasant temper and thought to herself that it was only the pepper that had made her so savage when they met in the kitchen.
"When I'm a Duchess," she said to herself (not in a very hopeful tone, though), "I won't have any pepper in my kitchen at all. Soup does very well without--Maybe it's always pepper that makes people hot-tempered," she went on, very much pleased at having found out a new kind of rule, "and vinegar that makes them sour--and chamomile that makes them bitter--and--and barley-sugar and such things that make children sweet-tempered. I only wish people knew that: then they wouldn't be so stingy about it, you know----"
from Alice In Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
What is an inference?
Alice has made an inference here--and then a whole passel of inferences based upon her first inference. She observed the fact that the Duchess appeared to be in a good mood at that moment. Then she remembered back to their last meeting in the kitchen and remembered the fact that the Duchess seemed to be in a very bad--a savage--mood on that previous occasion. Alice took those two facts that she'd experienced and made an inference--which she quickly decided was a new rule.
An inference is a mental judgement about some matter. It is a decision about what a fact or proposal is; what it means; what it implies. Inferences can be verbal or non-verbal--or a little bit of both. They can also be correct or incorrect--and, sometimes, a little bit of both, as well. Inference-making is a mental process that starts with a fact or assumption that is taken to be true. The mind then passes to another assumption--the truth of which is based upon the first assumption. Inferences are valid when a genuine connection holds between the two assumptions. They are invalid when no such implication holds. Inferences are of three sorts: abductive, deductive, and inductive--depending upon the sort of underlying logic that is used. Good inference-making is necessary for good reasoning. People who are skilled at making valid inferences know how to recognize the difference between facts and inferences. The ability to recognize this difference comprises the first requirement for being able to reason well....