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date: 27 June 2022

Inference in Social Cognitionlocked

Inference in Social Cognitionlocked

  • D. Vaughn Becker, D. Vaughn BeckerArizona State University
  • Christian UnkelbachChristian UnkelbachUniversity of Cologne
  •  and Klaus FiedlerKlaus FiedlerHeidelberg University

Summary

Inferences are ubiquitous in social cognition, governing everything from first impressions to the communication of meaning itself. Social cognitive inferences are typically varieties of diagnostic reasoning or, more properly, “abductive” reasoning, in which people infer simple but plausible—although not deductively certain—underlying causes for observable social behaviors. Abductive inference and its relationship to inductive and deductive inference are first introduced. A description of how abductive inference operates on a continuum between those that arise rapidly and automatically (and appear like deductions) and those that inspire more deliberative efforts (and thus often recruit more inductive information gathering and testing) is then given. Next, many classic findings in social cognition, and social psychology more broadly, that reveal how widespread this type of inference is explored. Indeed, both judgements under uncertainty and dual-process theories can be illuminated by incorporating the abductive frame. What then follows is a discussion on the work in ecological and evolutionary approaches that suggest that, although these inferences often go beyond the information given and are prone to predictable errors, people are good enough at social inference to qualify as being “ecologically rational.” The conclusion explores emerging themes in social cognition that only heighten the need for this broader understanding of inference processes.

Subjects

  • Social Psychology

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