In psychology, inductive reasoning or ‘induction’ is defined as reasoning based on detailed facts and general principles, which are eventually used to reach a specific conclusion. It is one of the two types of reasoning; deductive reasoning being the other type.
Also known as inductive logic or the bottom-up approach, induction is basically a type of reasoning wherein the chances of the conclusion being false are significant even when all the premises, on which the conclusion is based, are true. As opposed to deductive reasoning, which goes from general to specific, inductive reasoning goes from specific to general. In other words, it begins with a specific argument and arrives at a general logical conclusion. At times, induction is termed as strong, or weak, on the basis of the credibility of the argument put forth. Having a tough time trying to make sense of inductive reasoning? Here’s a brief write-up, which will put forth some examples of the same and make it easier for you to understand.
Example of Strong Inductive Reasoning
All the tigers observed in a particular region have black stripes on orange fur. Therefore all the tigers native to this region have black stripes on orange fur.
Even though all the tigers that were observed in this region sported black stripes on orange fur, the existence of a white tiger cannot be ruled out. Based on this, one can assume that the conclusion mentioned in this example is not certain. But then, the chances of coming across a white tiger are actually very rare, and that in itself makes this statement a good example of strong induction. In other words, a strong induction is the one wherein the conclusion is backed by the premises to a significant extent.
Example of Weak Inductive Reasoning
Joe always jumps the red light. Therefore everybody jumps the red light.
Unlike strong induction, in weak induction, the conclusion is not linked to the premises. Concluding that everybody jumps the red light just because one person does, is not an exercise of logical thinking. Simply put, weak induction is one which is backed by a faulty logic.
Inductive reasoning is further categorized into different types, i.e., inductive generalization, simple induction, causal inference, argument from analogy, and statistical syllogism. Given below are some examples, which will make you familiar with these types of inductive reasoning.
All observed people are right-handed, therefore all the people are right-handed.
All the dogs that have been observed, can bark, therefore all the dogs can bark.
Joe leaves home at 08:30 in the morning and arrives late for work, based on which he concludes that he will be late for work every time he leaves at 08:30.
Argument from Analogy
John and Joe are friends. John likes to sing, write and read. Joe likes to sing and write. Therefore one assumes that Joe also likes to read.
John plays as a pitcher for his team. All pitchers pitch at an average speed of 90 MPH, therefore John pitches at an average speed of 90 MPH as well.
The relationship between the premises and proposition forms the base of any inductive reasoning argument. Going through some examples of this form of reasoning will help you get a better understanding of the concept.
~Every time John eats shrimp, he gets cramps, and therefore he assumes that he gets cramps because he eats shrimp.
~John is an amazing athlete. So John’s son too will go on to become an amazing athlete.
~When chimpanzees are exposed to rage, they tend to become violent. Humans are similar to chimpanzees, and therefore they tend to get violent when exposed to rage.
~The woman in the neighboring apartment has a shrill voice. I can hear a shrill voice from outside. There is a high probability that the woman in the neighboring apartment is shouting.
~All the dogs which were subjected to routine diagnosis had fleas, so one concludes that all the dogs have fleas.
~The Philadelphia Falcons have won their last four matches in a one-sided contest, and therefore their fans conclude that the Falcons will win their fifth match as well.
~Every time you get a call from some unknown number, you find a telemarketer on the other side of the line. It makes you conclude that if it’s an unknown call, it is most likely to be a telemarketer.
~You see a dog chasing a cat in your neighborhood a couple of times, and start believing that the two animals cannot be kept in one house.
~A few episodes of a particular sitcom make you laugh, and you conclude that the said sitcom is very funny.
~100 pens are kept in front of you. On checking the first 10 pens, you note that 5 had black ink and 5 had blue ink, and therefore you conclude that half of the 100 pens are black and half are blue.
To induce is to “bring about”, and inductive reasoning is all about arriving at a conclusion on the basis of principle facts which guide you towards it. Comparing these examples of inductive reasoning with those of deductive reasoning will give you a better idea about the difference between the two. While we may not realize it, we resort to inductive reasoning for numerous day-to-day activities in our life. In fact, there are certain circumstances wherein you are left with no other option, but to rely on this form of reasoning — even when you think it’s unreliable.