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Transitive Inferences A Short Post


Michael is taller than Jan

Jan is shorter than Kelly

Dwight is taller than Jan

Stanley is shorter than Robert

Robert is taller than Michael

Can you arrange the people in order from tallest to shortest? Who is fourth tallest?

Who is second tallest?


What’s the point of transitive inferences?

The point of these types of inference exercises is to create relationship between unrelated points. We only need to know one thing about these people in order to understand the relationships that exists between them. We need one data point to pivot around, in this case I chose height, but it can virtually be anything.

What does strategy have to do with it?

Something else that comes to mind when considering this exercise is the strategy used to solve it. This is sort of meta, but in order to know which strategy you used to solve this, you have to analyze your thinking about thinking. An example of a common strategy for solving this involves two dimensional spatial orienting. That is, we arrange the names according to height starting with the tallest and working towards the shortest and continue to arrange them until they are in order. You might do this by putting one name on the paper and ordering names around that fixed name until you have the correct order.

Of course, your strategy in solving this may have been different than mine, but the ability to analyze your methods for solving problems goes a long way towards organizing your thought patterns.

If you can organize your method for solving a specific problem today, you can revisit that method for future use and improve upon it. Hopefully this helps you to become a clearer thinker. A skilled painter requires different brushes and paints to portray a pictures. If we want to learn to think like Sherlock Holmes we need to do the same. We have to organize our different mental tools and have them ready for use when we want to solve complex or simple problems.

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