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Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning: Differences & Examples

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  • 0:06 Understanding Science
  • 0:48 Inductive Reasoning
  • 2:14 Deductive Reasoning
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

This lesson explores the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning in the form of psychological experiments. In addition to defining these terms, the lesson gives examples to explain how this reasoning is applied.

Understanding Science

Science is not about thoughts, feelings, wishes, and fantasy. Scientists don't attribute their findings to numerologists, psychics or forces beyond human understanding (although quantum physics has some funky stuff). Science is about examining reality in an objective way, drawing conclusions from evidence or observation.

When scientists conduct experiments, they use different methods to understand a problem. For instance, a scientist could use inductive reasoning, which is drawing conclusions from evidence, or deductive reasoning, which is finding evidence to support or disprove conclusions. Let's make this a little more clear with some examples.

Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning is the more common way that scientists conduct experiments. Scientists have an idea of something to study more in depth. Then they go and collect data through experiments, observations, or surveys. With all of the data in hand, they analyze it to draw out conclusions.

Inductive reasoning is about collecting data and seeing what patterns or meaning can be extracted. A researcher, let's say you in this example, was taking a test and noticed that this fly kept buzzing around. It buzzed around your head and it was distracting you. So you wonder if noise distraction has any effect on test taking. You will then set up an experiment involving 100 people taking a test with some noisemaker in the background. The people will be divided into five groups of 20, and each group will have a different level of noise, from quiet to obnoxiously loud.

After all five groups have completed the tests you will compare their different scores to see if there was a difference. If the scores typically grew steadily worse as the noise increased, then you could draw a conclusion that as distractions increase, test scores will generally decrease. If, on the other hand, the majority of their scores increased with the noise, then you would make the correlation that as distraction increases, test scores will generally increase. To reiterate, inductive reasoning draws conclusions from evidence.

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