Making Social Inferences Using Pictures

Updated: Apr 22

Making social inferences means understanding information that is inferred or not directly stated. It involves observing a situation, then using clues with background knowledge to figure out what has happened or what is happening.

The ability to make social inferences is an essential social skill. We make social inferences all the time but we take our ability to do so for granted. It is actually a very complex skill. Children with language delay, children with autism and adults with autism or brain injury often need extra support to learn how to read situations and decipher the clues.

Let’s take an example. Look at the picture of the dog and see if you can work out what has happened. 

When you see this picture, you are able to pull all the pieces together and infer what has happened. You use your prior knowledge that dogs like to chew things. You find the clues in the picture; the dog, the damaged wooden door and the pieces of wood on the floor. You probably didn’t even need to consciously think about the inferences you made about the picture.

Making social inferences also includes drawing conclusions about how people may be feeling, what they may be thinking or saying and what they intend to do. These types of social inferences are more complex because they require the ability to read facial expressions and body language.

Pictures of real-life situations are ideal for working on the ability to make social inferences.  That’s why we decided to make Inference Pics

Inference Pics includes over 300 pictures in 7 activities.

Activity 1: What has happened?

Activity 2: Jobs

Activity 3: Places

Activity 4: Seasons

Activity 5 : Feelings

Activity 6: Thoughts

Activity 7 Conversations

Choose a picture and use the following Inference strategy with the child or adult to help them to make social inferences.

  • Describe what you see.

  • Note what you know.

  • Find the clues.

  • Return to the question

Some pictures are easier than others. For example, pictures of seasons, people with different jobs, and everyday places will likely be easier for many individuals than pictures that require some ability to understand facial expression and body language.

Activities 6 and 7 (Thoughts and Conversations) are more advanced as there is much more to infer in the pictures.

Remember that the picture is the stimulus. Many children and young adults need explicit explanations in order to find the clues, and understand facial expressions and body language. In some cases, they may have more difficulty due to not having prior knowledge e.g. they may not know that people yawn when they are tired or that dogs like to chew things.

Inference Pics is designed to be interactive. Together with the parent, clinician or teacher, the child or adult user will develop their ability to find social and contextual clues in the pictures as well as their understanding of facial expression and body language.

Inference Pics is available for $14.99/£14.99 on the AppStore and Google Play Store.

Try the lite version for free.

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