Abductive Reasoning: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Is Abductive Reasoning?
  • 0:45 Examples of Abductive…
  • 1:40 Deductive & Inductive…
  • 2:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ryan Hultzman
In this lesson, you will learn the definition of abductive reasoning as opposed to deductive and inductive reasoning, and will be given examples to further your understanding of this concept. Following the lesson, there will be a brief quiz.

What Is Abductive Reasoning?

You have a cough, a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit, a runny nose, chills, an aching body, nausea and diarrhea. You have had these symptoms for five days. Given this information, your best guess is that you have influenza, or the flu. But you are not completely certain. This is an example of abductive reasoning.

Abductive reasoning is to abduce (or take away) a logical assumption, explanation, inference, conclusion, hypothesis, or best guess from an observation or set of observations. Because the conclusion is merely a best guess, the conclusion that is drawn may or may not be true. Let's look at some examples to gain a better understanding of this reasoning process.

Examples of Abductive Reasoning

Jury duty decisions are one example of abductive reasoning. Let's say you're a juror and the defendant looks like the image of the man on the security camera robbing the bank. He stutters and pauses, like he is guilty, when answering questions posed by the prosecutor. You conclude, as a juror on your first day as a member of the jury, that he is guilty, but you are not certain. Here, you have made a decision based on your observations, but you are not certain it is the right decision.

Daily decision-making is also an example of abductive reasoning. Let's say you're stuck in traffic on the interstate and see ambulance and police lights about a half mile ahead. There is an exit coming up and you could take some backroads and then get back on the interstate after the accident. You listen to the traffic report on the radio. You look and see if the exit looks congested. Taking all the information at hand, you make the decision to stay on the interstate and wait for the accident to clear. You made the best decision you could given all of the observations.

Deductive & Inductive Reasoning

So, abductive reasoning is really taking an incomplete or partial list of observations about a situation and drawing an inference from these observations. It is an informal process. We use it in daily decision-making.

Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, is a precise conclusion based on a general rule that is known to be true. This reasoning moves from the general to the specific. The conclusion that you draw in deductive reasoning is always accurate and true. Here is an example:

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