Let’s say that I am shopping at the grocery store. I notice several people are talking about the recent football teams win, and a few people are complaining about the lack of food at the store. Then I notice that one customer says that he bought his favorite team’s football jerseys just minutes before the news of their win was announced. Therefore, my theory is that these observations are caused by the prior occurrence of winning football games.
Now if I were to use deductive reasoning, I would try to find out more specific details about the football jerseys which were sold at the grocery store that day. If these jerseys were sold by a football store employee, I could ask him why he did so, and what did he see when he saw them? This type of inductive reasoning has been used for hundreds of years to make generalizations about anything, including the world and its workings.
If this is my case, how should I conduct my inductive reasoning? Well, I simply have to choose a well-known fact and apply it to all the facts I have observed. For example, I can say that most criminals are repeat offenders, and their criminal acts are usually connected with some event which occurred prior to their commission of their crime. From this information, I can draw the conclusion that most criminals are lazy, disorganized, and lack self-discipline. Therefore, from my data, it is quite apparent that lack of self-discipline, disorganization, and laziness are very important characteristics to be considered when forming conclusions about any given person or group of people.
By making my inductive reasoning allow for the possibility that laziness and disorganization are associated with some events that occurred prior to their commission, I have reduced the scope of my argument to something more specific. But my inductive reasoning allows for further observations, and I will make them in this section. It has been noted that most criminals are organized and lazy. However, there may also be individuals who are disorganized, but yet are extremely skillful and ambitious. These individuals may also be more prone to committing crimes against those who are less advanced in their profession.
Now let’s consider another example. Let’s say that Joe was a poor football player. Joe is extremely talented as a football player, and he excelled at the high school level. Joe is considered a good football player, and he played well at the quarterback position. Let’s also note that Joe started out at defensive tackle, but eventually moved to safety because he is an excellent safety.
The conclusion that I draw from all of this is that Joe was a poor football player, but Joe was extremely skillful and successful in his other areas of strength and talent. This means that I can infer (from the observations above) that Joe is probably a good football player. This conclusion would be much stronger, if I didn’t have to make any inferences and assumptions from the rest of my observations. In other words, inductive reasoning allows me to form a conclusion about one particular instance without having to make inferences from other instances. For example, the sentence “Joe is a poor quarterback, so Joe probably isn’t very good at football.”
When I made up my next statement, I realized that I should have used the word “swollen,” instead of “lips swelled.” Having used the word “lips” in conjunction with “swollen,” I concluded that my conclusion should be “Joe was a very good defensive tackle, so he must have been a good football player.” This is better than my original conclusion, which was “Joe was a poor quarterback, so he must have been a very good football player.” By using inductive reasoning, I was able to eliminate the prior conclusion and put all of my observations in a new light. I believe that this type of reasoning is extremely useful for students, instructors, coaches, and professors.