The paper reviews three modes of rational inference: deductive, inductive and probabilistic. Many examples of each can be found in scientific endeavour, professional practice and public discourse. However, while the strengths and weaknesses of deductive and inductive inference are well established, the implications of the emerging probabilistic orientation are still being worked through. The paper discusses some of the recent findings in psychology and philosophy, and speculates about the implications for scientific and professional practice in general and OR in particular. It is suggested that the probabilistic orientation and Bayesian approach can provide an epistemological lens through which to view the claims of different approaches to inference. Some suggestions for further research are made. Journal of the Operational Research Society (2010) 61, 1207-1223. doi: 10.1057/jors.2009.96 Published online 26 August 200
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