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Any Child Can Read Better$
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Harvey S. Wiener

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195102185

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195102185.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 October 2021

Finding Secrets: Inference

Finding Secrets: Inference

(p.144) 8 Finding Secrets: Inference
Any Child Can Read Better

Harvey S. Wiener

Oxford University Press

A colleague arrives at work one Monday morning at 9:30. She's usually there at 8:00 A.M., ahead of everyone else. She mumbles under her breath and shakes her head from side to side, biting her lip. She doesn't say "Hello" as she usually does, but instead, staring straight ahead, she storms past your desk. At her office she turns the knob roughly, throws open the door, and then slams it loudly behind her. What's going on here? This is a classic bad mood scene, isn't it? No direct evidence, of course—your colleague doesn't say anything to you—but you can add up the pieces to figure out some important information for yourself. Clearly, she's angry or upset about something. To reach that judgment, you relied on what you saw and heard at the moment, but also on what you know about her usual behavior. No one had to tell you that she was furious. From her appearance, her actions, her body language, and her behavior, it was safe to infer that something irritated her. You were assessing the scene, and your natural ability to draw inferences fed you information that you needed in order to figure out her behavior. What is inference? When we infer, we derive information by a complex process of reasoning that balances assumptions, induction and deduction, instinct, prior experience, perception, hunches—even, some believe, ESP. Many people define inference as reading between the lines. This definition, of course, is figurative. It says that being able to determine information in this way is like figuring out hidden meanings—beyond the apparent ideas expressed by words and sentences. More information resides on a page of text than what the lines of print say. You can tell from this familiar metaphor—reading between the lines—that inference is usually intertwined with the reading process. In other words, we conceive of the act of inference as print-bound. Much of the essential meaning from a page does come to us as cues and clues in a writer's discourse.

Keywords:   National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Tacit knowing, Television, inference from programs

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