1.4: Inductive Reasoning
Inductive reasoning is a type of logic in which premises lead to a conclusion. Inductive reasoning is uncertain and operates in degrees to which the conclusions are credible. As such, inductive arguments can be weak or strong, rather than valid or invalid, and conclusions can be used to formulate testable, falsifiable hypotheses.
In inductive reasoning, collected evidence of an often small sample is used to draw a conclusion. It allows for the possibility that the conclusion is false. This is unlike deductive reasoning, which starts with a hypothesis and looks at the possibilities to reach a specific, logical conclusion.
For example, if all fish in a pond are observed squirting water into the air towards insects that they then retrieve and eat, inductive reasoning would indicate that all fish must be able to project water as a method of preying on insects.
Because this conclusion is credible, it can be used to formulate a testable, falsifiable hypothesis—that all fish project water to catch their insect prey. In general, this is a weak argument considering that not all types of fish are present in this particular pond. Then, in order to test this hypothesis, the researcher could collect multiple types of fish from the pond—in addition to other types of fish that eat insects from other water sources—and observe how they behave in a laboratory setting, in the presence of insects. The results may lead to the conclusion that not all fish squirt water at their prey. For example, it is known that archerfish shoot insects with a stream of water, but pufferfish do not.