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The difference between inductive and deductive reasoning

Last updated

12 March 2023

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Reasoning skills are essential in many aspects of life. They are key ingredients for success. These skills help us understand problems, draw conclusions, and come up with the right solutions.

Reasoning often occurs naturally, as well as in research, and can take different approaches, such as abductive, deductive, or inductive. This article explores the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning.

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What is inductive reasoning?

Inductive reasoning is a logical thinking approach that involves combining observations, experiences, or facts to review a situation and reach a conclusion. Existing knowledge or a specific set of data from past observations is used to make decisions.

The inductive approach’s biggest strength lies in establishing probability. Some probabilities won’t be true or possible, but you get various options.

Developing a perception or gauging an idea requires a starting point, which inductive reasoning provides. It starts with a specific inference or observation and fuels more exploration to test whether the judgment or probable inference is correct or incorrect.

Therefore, anyone using inductive reasoning explores a given context and tests different scenarios. With more observations, you can then determine if the conclusions are true.

For instance, a salesperson realizes that sharing testimonials from past and current customers with their prospects increases their chances of making a sale by 75%. So, they share testimonials with all prospects to improve their close rate.

Limitations of an inductive approach

Inductive reasoning starts with a single inference or observation drawn from specific and comparable situations. Unfortunately, getting an accurate inference or fair judgment might not lead to diversity.

Inductive reasoning starts with something specific and then tries to generalize, which may be inaccurate. The logic can be sound, but further observation can prove it wrong.

When to use inductive reasoning

You can use inductive reasoning to make everyday decisions; for example, what clothes you will wear based on the weather forecast. It is also commonly used in scientific investigations where a body of data is evaluated before conclusions can be reached.

In simple terms, this type of reasoning relies on evidence to support its premises. The opposite is starting with a premise and using logical rules to come up with a conclusion (deductive reasoning). 

Inductive reasoning is appropriate to use in situations when there isn’t enough information. It enables you to form conclusions using probabilities and likelihoods based on the available evidence.

Examples of inductive reasoning

Inductive reasoning identifies patterns that can help inform future efforts and recreate success in a business.

Examples of inductive reasoning include the following:

  • A business owner observes that several customers are waiting to enter when the store opens in the morning. They decide to open one hour earlier on weekdays as a result.

  • A recruiter analyzes high-performing and successful employees in the product team and realizes they all hold a degree in marketing or finance. The recruiter decides they will focus on recruiting candidates with a degree in these disciplines in the future.

What is deductive reasoning?

Deductive reasoning involves drawing a conclusion from a hypothesis or general statement that is believed to be true. In other words, a logical conclusion is reached using a logical assumption.

Limitations of deductive reasoning

Deductive reasoning can be misleading. The premises of an argument could be inaccurate, meaning the conclusion will be inaccurate too.

This approach can also be time-consuming. Coming up with a valid argument and testing all the possible implications of the premises can take a lot of time, resulting in inflexibility and rigidity. People who depend on this method of reasoning can become unwilling to consider other points of view.

When to use deductive reasoning

Deductive reasoning can be used in various aspects of life. For instance, you can apply this type of reasoning in problem-solving, establishing an accurate assumption and using it as a foundation for a reliable solution. It reduces guesswork and results in fewer errors.

This approach is also used in the customer service experience. Deductive reasoning helps you determine an appropriate solution to a customer’s problem by identifying what makes them unhappy and linking it to what you know about their experience. Ultimately, this helps address customers’ concerns and increase their satisfaction.

Examples of deductive reasoning

Example 1

Premise 1: The company’s most significant sales come from middle-income earners living within its home state.

Premise 2: The company should allocate its marketing funds to target the most significant customer group to increase sales.

Conclusion: The company should allocate more marketing funds to target middle-income earners in its home state.

Example 2

Premise 1: The coffee shop owner wants to increase sales of a particular coffee product.

Premise 2: Customers are purchasing more espressos than other types of coffee.

Premise 3: Allocating a prime ad space to a product and giving related discounts can increase sales of that product.

Conclusion: The coffee shop owner should allocate prime ad space to espresso and offer related discounts to increase sales of this particular product.

Example 3

Premise 1: The development committee members want to increase donations from alumni in the medical sector.

Premise 2: People working in the medical sector have a higher propensity to donate.

Premise 3: The five most effective staff members are best suited to target alumni in the medical field.

Conclusion: The development committee members should direct their five most effective staff members to target alumni working in the medical field in their next fundraising strategy.

Inductive vs. deductive reasoning

Similarities

Inductive and deductive reasoning are both forms of logic with premises and conclusions that help determine the truth. Both can help draw generalizations and stress true logic during scientific reasoning.

Differences

Here’s how inductive and deductive reasoning differ:

  • Inductive reasoning makes a generalization from specific observations and facts, while deductive reasoning uses available information, knowledge, or facts to construe a valid conclusion.

  • Inductive reasoning uses a bottom-up approach, while deductive reasoning uses a top-down approach.

  • Inductive reasoning has probabilistic conclusions, while deductive reasoning has certain conclusions.

  • Inductive arguments can be weak or strong, meaning the conclusion may be incorrect even when the premises are true. Deductive arguments can be invalid or valid, so the conclusion must be true when the premises are true.

What is abductive reasoning?

Abductive reasoning is a unique logical thinking process that determines the most likely outcome using all available information, even if complete. It makes observations and seeks the hypothesis that would best explain or fit them.

In short, abductive reasoning involves analyzing a list of incomplete observations and creating the best prediction.

Despite abductive reasoning using the best information currently available, it’s often insufficient to make a completely informed, certain conclusion.

This approach is often used in the medical field; for example, when a doctor makes a diagnosis without information like test results. When a patient needs immediate medical attention, the doctor would use the minimal information they have to develop a conclusion or diagnosis.

Summing up

Logic is a crucial skill that people frequently use in their daily lives. But any discussion on logic is only complete when inductive and deductive reasons are included.

Inductive reasoning highlights a group of specific observations, trends, or events to prove a general principle. It’s fast and easy, and people use it more in their daily lives since it needs evidence.

Deductive reasoning differs as it involves thinking from general to specific and requires facts that must be true.

FAQs

What is the one advantage of using deductive reasoning?

Assuming your conclusions are true and you apply your reasoning skills correctly, using a deductive approach will just about guarantee a true conclusion.

What should you watch out for when using inductive reasoning?

Be cautious not to make fast generalizations that could affect the quality of your conclusion.

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