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Chapter 6. The Parts of Thinking > Understanding Implications

Understanding Implications

Among the most important skills of critical thinking is the ability to distinguish between what a statement or situation actually implies and what people may merely (and wrongly) infer from it. An inference, again, is a step of the mind that results in a conclusion. For example, if the sun rises, we can infer that it is morning. Critical thinkers try to monitor their thinking so they infer only that which is implied in a situation—no more, no less. If I feel ill and go to the doctor for a diagnosis, I want the doctor to infer exactly what my symptoms imply. For example, I do not want her to infer that I simply have a cold requiring no medication when in fact I have a bacterial infection requiring antibiotics. My symptoms imply that I have a certain illness, which in turn implies a certain course of treatment. I want the doctor to accurately infer what my illness is, then accurately infer the proper treatment for it.

It is often the case that, in thinking, people fail to think successfully through the implications of a situation. They fail to think through the implications of a problem or decision. As a result, negative consequences often follow.


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