How do inductive and deductive reasoning differ?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Inductive and deductive reasoning differ from one another in that they reach conclusions in opposite ways.
When people engage in inductive reasoning, they take specific experiences and use those experiences to form the basis for conclusions. They look at what happens in a specific instance and extrapolate that to mean that all similar instances will be the same. For example, let us say that a high school girl goes out with a person who is involved in the drama club. This person treats her badly. She concludes from this that all people who are interested in drama and theater are likely to treat their girlfriends badly.
When people engage in deductive reasoning, they take overall rules and apply them to individual situations. For example, if a person knows that spiders have eight legs and they see something that they think is a spider, they will conclude that it must have eight legs, regardless of whether they have counted the legs. As an example from everyday life, we can imagine the case of a person who has always done well in school without having to try very hard. Since they have always done well in all their classes, they assume (when faced with a new class) that they will do well in this class as well.

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