Even if we’re not conscious of it, we use inductive reasoning everyday. But what is inductive reasoning? We’re going to answer that question by looking at inductive reasoning examples from history. We’ll also show you how to recognize it in everyday life. By the end, you’ll know how to apply inductive logic and reasoning in the real world.


What is inductive reasoning?

Inductive Reasoning is a “bottom-up” process of making generalized assumptions based on specific premises. Inductions are usually made at a subconscious level, but they play an integral role in our actions and beliefs. For example, an induction could state that everybody at a party was wearing blue shirts, Laura was at the party, therefore she was wearing a blue shirt. 

Characteristics of Inductive Reasoning

  • Bottom-to-Top reasoning
  • Effective for World Building
  • Predictive, not Certain

What is It Used For?

Inductive vs deductive reasoning

What is inductive reasoning? What is the difference between inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning? Well, as I alluded to earlier, inductive reasoning applies a “bottom to top” approach to logic, while deductive reasoning applies a “top to bottom” approach. 

With deductive reasoning, if the premises of a statement are true, then the conclusion has to be true. But with the inductive form, even if the premises are true, that doesn’t mean the conclusion has to be true.

There’s also a third branch of reasoning called abductive reasoning. Abductive reasoning takes a conclusion, and hypothesizes the likeliest premises given the situation. This next video does a great job of explaining these three branches of reasoning, with special emphasis on inductive and abductive reasoning.

What is Inductive Reasoning?  •  Crash Course Guide to Induction and Abduction

It may be helpful to think of inductive and abductive reasoning as forms of predictive logic — or “not-for-sure” logic. With deductive reasoning, the conclusion is assured by the premises, even if they’re ultimately proven false. But with inductive and abductive reasoning, there’s no certain answer, just educated guesses.

Inductive vs Deductive Reasoning Meaning

What does inductive reasoning mean?

The inductive reasoning meaning lies somewhere between a predictive inference and a scientific guess. Inductions can be made in three ways:

  • A priori - (pure reason, practical reason)

Philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that pure reason, such as the statement “all bachelors are unmarried,” could be used to make deductions. But when the clauses of a statement are uncertain, we call that model practical reason.

An example of a practically reasonable induction would be: star SN87 went supernova, the sun is a star, therefore it will go supernova.

  • A posteriori - (personal knowledge)

An example of an a posteriori induction is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave — it takes the lived experience of a man, uses his specific, empirically induced perception of the world, and reaches a generalized conclusion.

If you’re still racking your brain over these terms, don’t worry, this next video explains them in a short and succinct way.

Inductive Reasoning vs Deductive Reasoning  •  A priori and A posteriori  •  Philosophy Tube

  • Combination of both (analytic and synthetic)

An analytic and synthetic example would take a universal predictive model and combine it with lived experience. For example: I sold a PlayStation 4 for $200, it’s been one year since then, so I assume I won’t be able to sell another PlayStation for the same value.

Inductive Reasoning Meaning

Types of inductive reasoning

There are a lot of different types of inductive reasoning. But before we go over these types in detail, check out the video below.

Inductive Reasoning Definition  •  Types of Inductive Reasoning by Center for Innovation in Legal Education

1. Generalizations

Take a specific observation and make a generalized conclusion. Example: “Every bear I’ve seen had black fur. Therefore, most bears probably have black fur.”

2. Statistical 

Statistical inductions take data into account to give a more accurate prediction. Example: “Eight of the ten bears I’ve seen in the wild had black fur. So, about 80% of the world’s bears have black fur.”

3. Bayesian

Bayesian inferences add circumstantial information to statistical data. Example: “I’ve only ever seen bears on the west coast of the United States, so my data may not accurately reflect the whole world.

4. Syllogism 

This is when you take a generalization about a group and apply it to an individual. Example: “All the bears at the zoo have had black fur, so the next bear they bring in will have black fur too.”

5. Analogical 

Comparing two things with a shared quality and inducing that they must have another shared quality too. Example: “Black bears have black fur. Black panthers have black fur. Therefore, black bears and black panthers are the same species.

6. Causal Inference 

When you infer a correlation between two causal events. Example: “I only see black bears when it gets hot outside. I suspect I’ll see a black bear this week during the heat-wave.”

Remember, inductive reasoning isn’t always right! Just because you have reason to believe something will happen doesn’t mean that it will. And just because you have experience or data to suggest that something specific is always the case, that doesn’t mean that it is.

Although inductive reasoning can be a useful tool for making sense of the world, it can also create bias, prejudice and stereotypes. So be mindful of how we make inductions in everyday life before suggesting a specific experience applies to a generalized subject.

Inductive Reasoning Meaning

Inductive reasoning examples

Want to learn how to write inductive logic? Look no further for inspiration than Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. In this next clip, the Pythons use satire to expose the ludicrousness in taking specific observations and applying generalized conclusions to them. 

Inductive Reasoning Examples Monty Python 

This clip does a great job of showing how inductions can lead to false beliefs — like when Brian is spinning a yarn to distract the Romans, only to garner the following of wayward passers-by. They think that he’s induced a way to everlasting life, when in reality he’s just bided time to escape.

In writing, inductions are best used as comedic devices. That’s because inductions set-up generalized conclusions that we usually expect to be false. As such, you can play that tension up with high-stakes and satire.


What is Deductive Reasoning?

Inductive vs deductive reasoning: what is the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning? Deductive reasoning is perhaps the more “popular” type of reasoning – and it plays an enormous role in how we understand the world. In this next article, we break down everything you need to know about deductive reasoning so that you’ll be equipped to apply it in everyday life. 

Up Next: Deductive Reasoning →
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  • Chris Heckmann is a Professor of Media & Communication at Roger Williams University and graduate of UCLA’s Cinema & Media Studies Master of Arts program. When he’s not writing or teaching, he’s probably playing video games (or thinking about the next great Boston sports trade).

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