Inference is the process of generating further premises from information. Sperber et al (2012) write:

'An inference, as the term is used in psychology, is a process that, given some input information reliably yields as output further information that is likely to be true if the input information is. Inference is involved not only in thinking but also in perception and in motor control. When you see a three-dimensional object, a house or a horse, for instance, you have sensory information only about the part of its surface that reflects light to your retina, and perceiving it as a house or as a horse involves inferring from this sensory information about a surface the kind of three-dimensional object it is. When you decide to grasp, say, a mug, you use your perception of the mug and of your own bodily position in space to infer at each moment throughout the movement the best way to carry out you intention. Inferences so understood are performed not only by humans but by all species endowed with cognitive capacities. They are an essential ingredient of any cognitive system.'

Judgement and decision making are different processes.

Judgement, the process of generating factual conclusions from evidence using generalisations is clearly inference. Jolls et al (1998) refer to judgement as '[assessing] the probability of an uncertain event.' Baron (2008) confirms '[T]he term “judgment,” ... refers to the process of inference.'

However, is decision making, the process of choosing a course of action based on a judgement about the state of the world also an inference? If not, what is it?

Decision making is described by Tor (2008) as:

'...how individuals choose among the alternatives available to them...'

  • $\begingroup$ I have read papers in argumentation theory which might shed light on this. I believe inference goes on in both cases, but such dialogues are classified differently, primarily based on the goal/outcome. Decision making would be a 'deliberation dialogue', whereas 'judgement' would likely be called an 'inquiry' dialog. When I have time I might try to provide an answer. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    May 2, 2019 at 11:54
  • $\begingroup$ Hi @StevenJeuris, do you think the terms 'judgement' and 'decision-making' mean the same in the context of argumentation theory as they do in the context of decision theory? $\endgroup$
    – Poul
    May 2, 2019 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ The description of inference in your first quote is sometimes called "perceptual decision making" in the literature, but I would distinguish that from cognitive decision making when one chooses among possible actions given a set of existing inferences about the world. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    May 2, 2019 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Poul No idea. Interesting question, as you are really encouraging cross-disciplinary theorizing here. 🙂 All I can do is dig into the details of what I remember and feel might be tangentially relevant, but I expect different answers from multiple perspectives would be highly useful here. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    May 2, 2019 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ Sensory processing generally divides into classification (recognising a known phenomenon) and measurement (estimating a value, such as position). The result is then available for higher-level inference. Imagine a simple organism which classifies a stimulus as simply good or bad, resulting in either attraction or repulsion. Imagine one internal factor, say hunger, determining whether good results in attraction. If we define the decision process as starting before hunger is integrated, then perhaps the decision has inference. Otherwise, we may have no additional inference. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Dec 20, 2021 at 8:00


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