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Inferencing Skills of University Students for Visual Humor Items

Inferencing Skills of University Students for Visual Humor Items
Cecile Spector
May 14, 2007



Much of what we understand comes from our ability to infer meaning. That is, to guess, or surmise what is meant, by taking into account factors other than the words that make up a statement, or the images in a picture. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (10th ed.) defines the word infer in the following manner:

To derive as a conclusion from facts or premises (we see smoke and ~ fire); to guess, surmise (your letter allows me to ~ that you are as well as ever); to involve as a normal outcome of thought; suggest, indicate (synonyms: deduce, conclude, judge, gather)

There is a compelling need to make inferences because, very often, meaning exists in the entirety of a statement that is not present in its component parts. "We use prior experience and knowledge of the world for constructive comprehension. A discourse exchange is successful when the listener is able to fill in the details of a message" (Wallach & Miller, 1988, p. 115).

Our reasoning power is based, to a great extent, on our ability to make inferences. For inductive reasoning, we infer a generalized conclusion from particular instances; for deductive reasoning, we infer a conclusion about particulars from general or universal premises. When our inferencing skills are strong they enable us to:

  • Identify problems and possible solutions
  • Identify alternative courses of action and predict likely consequences of each
  • Analyze and integrate contextual information
  • Select the most appropriate strategy or alternative for solving a problem

A hierarchy of thinking skill levels was classified by Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, Hill, and Krathwohl in 1956. Starting with the most elemental and progressing to the most difficult, these levels are as follows:

  • Knowledge--Individuals can recall bits of information
  • Comprehension--Individuals can understand information, but do not relate it to other material
  • Application--Individuals can use what is previously known to figure out problems under new circumstances
  • Analysis--Individuals can break a whole into its parts
  • Synthesis--Individuals can put parts together to create a new whole
  • Evaluation--Individuals can state opinions and give reasons; they can explain why; they can infer

cecile spector

Cecile Spector

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