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SergeantQueen's avatar

Is it bad to not be able to Infer things?

Asked by SergeantQueen (11995points) 1 week ago

I struggled a lot in middle/high school with this. Reading for example, I would get asked “Why does this character wear all black?” and I’d say it’s because he likes the color black. Well no, the answer is because he is depressed. Where the hell does the book say that??? I’m supposed to “Infer” it.

I don’t take implications or hints well at all, if someone isn’t 100% straightforward with me I either need clarification, or my brain comes up with it’s own conclusions. I can’t really handle the dodgy “maybe” answer to questions or “we’ll see”. I always need a “yes” or a “no”. Otherwise I get annoyed.

Sidenote: This is probably why I struggle with mysteries and such. If it’s not obvious and explicit, I just don’t get it.

I did a bible study once, boy did that confuse the hell out of me. So many ways to “interpret” something, none of them I understood. The book didn’t say it so how did you come up with it?

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16 Answers

Mimishu1995's avatar

I see you have a hard time understanding abstract fiction :P

I don’t think it’s bad in itself. It just means you are a simple and straightforward thinker. But it could rub people who are more concerned about social etiquette the wrong way.

flutherother's avatar

I think you’re right, wearing black doesn’t necessarily mean a character is depressed. However, when an author wants to tell you that a character is depressed just saying they are depressed isn’t always convincing. It is better to describe the person’s thoughts and behaviour so the reader can create the character in his or her own imagination.

I think the issue may simply be that you are more literal minded than average. Some people are literal minded – they think in black and white whereas others colour their worlds with metaphor. Having a proclivity for metaphors has real consequences, affecting how people respond to the world around them and even how they interact with others. source

elbanditoroso's avatar

It’s not bad, I see it as more of a learned skill – and you just haven’t learned it yet. I wouldn’t worry about it.

The main principle tp inferering is analysis – thinking about different possible interpretations and then determining which are most likely or appropriate for the subject you’re reading or talking about.

For most people, it takes practice.

janbb's avatar

It’s good to recognize it and realize that other people may see things in a different light than you do because of your literal mindedness. And I wouldn’t take classes in subjects like psychology or comparative literature which would probably frustrate you.

KNOWITALL's avatar

It’s not bad but I’m sure it makes your life more difficult at times. I’ve seen a few instances here and am glad to know the reason. :)

cookieman's avatar

Don’t feel bad. My daughter (19) is the same way. Very literal. Likes things black and white. Not a fan of inference or metaphor. Really dislikes fantasy or (in her words) “unrealistic” stories.

She’s taking a philosophical theology class as a college freshman and the professor is very fast and loose with his interpretations of the reading. It annoys her to no end.

She likes to have an answer, not multiple possible answers depending on certain details.

gorillapaws's avatar

You might want to look into Bayesian probability. It’s a way of turning true/false into a quantifiable likelihood of something being true/false. So it’s not just saying “maybe,” but a very precise “that’s got a 34% chance of being true.” Maybe that’s.a way to approach quantifying uncertainty in a way that feels less susceptible to people being so loose with their inferences?

I can definitely see how being a very literal thinker would present unique challenges in school, work and life. It’s not “bad” per-se, but being literal in a society where there’s plenty of figurative content, and being expected to understand those inferences is an obstacle for sure. The fact that you recognize this, is an important part of finding ways to cope. We all have our own challenges, and I’m sure you’re exceptional in your own ways that most of us would struggle with.

capet's avatar

Agree with @elbanditoroso. I’ve struggled with this a little bit (not that I know what it’s like for you), and I think it helps to think about it as getting used to a new culture (even if it is technically “your culture”).

capet's avatar

I think this may also help you with some literary interpretation. A lot of times we have these conventions (someone wears black because they’re depressed), and then when an artist subverts or ignores those conventions we miss them. So you might miss some things but pick up better on other things, IMO.

JLeslie's avatar

Plenty of people wear black and aren’t depressed. In my world black was sleek and fashionable and practically a uniform for work.

In school when reading certain books there is all sorts of symbolism readers are supposed to pick up on, but some of it can easily be missed by even the most adept people.

I think you just have to tell people you are very literal and don’t pick up on subtleties, and you need very direct communication.

I do think some of it can be learned. The older you get the more you gain knowledge to understand references made.

Even something trivial like when someone said to my husband, “her sister was killed by a house falling on her.” My husband had zero idea the speaker is saying the “her” is a witch/bitch. He has never seen The Wizard of Oz. This sort of thing happens constantly because my husband was raised in another country, and speaking a different language. Many sayings don’t literally translate.

SergeantQueen's avatar

@janbb Interesting you remark on the psychology part of it. I have a huge interest in criminal psychology specifically, because I always want to the the why. I understand there just isn’t always a why, but my brain doesn’t work that way. Surely something must have caused that person to do what they did? But sometimes there isn’t. And it bugs me. It doesn’t seem logical that someone could just out of nowhere murder someone. So it does somewhat frustrate me.

But I still am interested in it, weirdly enough.

raum's avatar

The ability to make inferences is just a skill like any other. It comes easily to some. Harder to others. And can be taught.

It could make certain things harder. An English Lit course. Or navigating social dynamics.

But I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a bad thing. There’s value in having a range of thinking.

SergeantQueen's avatar

I also struggle with communication. People can say something and mean it in a sarcastic way (I’m talking about real life conversations), but their body language, tone of voice, etc. is serious. So I take what they said seriously and literally.

It’s embarrassing sometimes.

Patty_Melt's avatar

You are on the spectrum. Get diagnosed. Once you know where you stand, you gain power. You then can be advised exactly how to approach difficulties you come up against.

My family members on the spectrum have benefitted greatly from knowing where they need to focus their efforts. One relative is a man in his thirties. He works. He is high functioning. Some people who know him pick on little things about how he lives. It makes him apologetic for certain behaviors. We were at an event together. He wanted some lemonade, but he wouldn’t let me order it for him. He finally admitted he can’t drink the pulp. I told him I would be happy to get it for him, and when it gets to the part he doesn’t like, he can dispose of the rest. No big deal.

It makes a world of difference knowing what you can do to improve things for yourself, but it also gives others a guideline to understand where you need some compromise from them. That is a big deal.

Trying to get by without a diagnosis is self torture.

mrainer's avatar

If I’m really honest, I’d say there’s no reason for you to worry. At the high school level, teachers tend to mistake being able to parrot an answer for the ability to infer things. If anything, students, consciously and otherwise, infer that parroting is a better way to go about things than writing answers or essays with starkly different perspectives. Students are after all rewarded for this with good grades. If you’re concerned about not being able to draw inferences, you can start with a 101-level course in Logic. A simple online search would give you many free lessons. As for literary inferences, the more you read the better you might get, especially if you can find ways to keep your anxiety about drawing inferences in check. Give yourself time; people understand things at different speeds. Who knows, with time, you might become quite the expert at spotting logical fallacies, especially arguments blighted by transductive reasoning (the internet could be rife with these type of arguments).

dabbler's avatar

I’m an engineer, by training and disposition, and I could Not get the hang of interpreting literature. Why don’t they just say what they mean?!?
I have developed some appreciation for the poetry and suggestion in writing but it had taken years.
“Bad” is way too harsh on yourself, just know that you may go through life asking, “what did they mean by that?” as I have.

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