Introduction (Psychology and Mental Health)
Inductive reasoning is the form of logic in which specific examples form the basis of a generalization. Facts are collected and then classified to determine patterns. From these patterns, an inference is drawn and a generalization is made. Unlike deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning does not always lead to a true statement, no matter how many true statements precede it. Because of the infinite number of examples that exist and the observer’s limited experiences, conclusions drawn from inductive reasoning can form the basis of hypotheses but are not likely to yield a true statement.
People tend to use inductive reasoning to evaluate what is happening in their lives and in their relations with other people. In this area, most conclusions are false because they are based on a finite number of observations and people’s own life experiences, which are limited. In essence, people examine their experiences and identify a number of patterns for situations. An example might be an adolescent who is being raised by a mother who is a drug addict and cannot be trusted to follow through on what she promises. The adolescent might have two friends who are also being raised by similarly untrustworthy drug-addicted parents. Based on these specific observations, the adolescent would then make the generalization that all parents cannot be trusted. Of course, this generalization is not true, although it might be true of many parents in the...
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Applications (Psychology and Mental Health)
Inductive reasoning is used in many areas. It is used in geometry, where a number of examples of a shape, such as a triangle, are examined, and from these specific examples, a generalization is made about the characteristics of all triangles. These generalizations form a hypothesis, which is then proven in a theorem. Another application of inductive reasoning is the game of chess. In chess, strategies have been developed and published. So, a chess player might observe the moves of another player and identify these specific moves as the Caro-Kann defense, a chess strategy. Accordingly, this chess player then uses another strategy to outsmart the Caro-Kann defense.
Inductive reasoning is used in economics when agencies use identified patterns of behavior in the economic system to determine how to proceed in investing or in determining how to change the interest rate for loans. Archaeology is another area in which inductive reasoning is used. Archaeologists search for relics and paintings from past societies and then use these relics and paintings to describe the behavior and appearance of ancient peoples. Inductive reasoning is also used in astronomy when scientists view the elements of the solar system and make generalizations about other possible solar systems. Astronomers view the physical characteristics of other planets within the solar system and make generalizations about these planets based on examples from Earth....
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History (Psychology and Mental Health)
Inductive reasoning began in the Greek classical period. Aristotle, Thales, Pythagoras, and other philosophers described reasoning patterns. Aristotle wrote about logic, primarily deductive reasoning, although he also described inductive reasoning. Eighteenth century Scottish philosopher David Hume was the first person to state that inductive reasoning is rarely true. He argued that people’s everyday reasoning depends on repeated patterns of existence rather than deductively valid arguments. In the twentieth century, philosophers Karl Raimond Popper and David Miller questioned the validity of inductive reasoning and its use in science. In the mid-nineteenth century, German mathematician and philosopher Gottlob Frege began the study of mathematics and logic, in which he was followed by philosophers such as Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell.
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Sources for Further Study (Psychology and Mental Health)
Arthur, W. Brian. “Inductive Reasoning and Bounded Rationality.” American Economic Review 84, no. 2 (1994): 406-411. Explains the limitations of inductive reasoning and how human beings apply it to their lives.
Baum, Robert. Logic. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. This textbook provides basic information about logic and reasoning and applies these concepts to modern advertising and cartoons. It includes exercises for applying logic.
Feeney, Aidan, and Evan Heit, eds. Inductive Reasoning: Experimental, Developmental, and Computational Approaches. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. A collection of essays on research into inductive reasoning, much of which is related to psychology
Pine, Ronald C. Essential Logic: Basic Reasoning Skills for the Twenty-first Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. This textbook includes a discussion of deductive and inductive reasoning and explains the basics of logic for the student. The author uses traditional concepts and applies them to modern technology and science.
Walton, Douglas. Informal Logic: A Pragmatic Approach. 2d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. This introductory guidebook to logic takes a nontechnical approach. One chapter covers inductive errors, bias, and fallacies.
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Inductive Reasoning (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
Way of thinking that uses comparisons to reach conclusions.
When a child uses inductive thinking or reasoning, he or she engages in the evaluation and comparison of facts to reach a conclusion. Inductive reasoning progresses from observations of individual cases to the development of a generality. (Inductive reasoning, or induction, is often confused with deductive thinking; in the latter, general principles or conditions are applied to specific instances or situations.) If a child puts his or her hand into a bag of candy and withdraws three pieces, all of which are red, he or she may conclude that all the candy is red. Inductive reasoning, or induction, is the process by which a general conclusion is reached from evaluating specific observations or situations.
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