1.5: Deductive Reasoning
Deductive reasoning is a type of logic used for making specific predictions based on general principles. It is the opposite of inductive reasoning, where general principles are inferred from specific observations. Both types of reasoning are used in the process of generating and testing hypotheses.
For example, a scientist might observe that one species of butterfly is attracted to a specific type of flower that is red but not to a very similar type of flower nearby that is blue. From this information, they might hypothesize—using inductive reasoning—that it is primarily the flower’s color that attracts the butterfly.
After formulating a general hypothesis, the scientist can then deduce a number of possible results that might occur if the hypothesis is true. In this case, changing the preferred flower’s petal color should alter the butterflies’ attraction, but changing its scent or its petal shape should not.
Deductive predictions can then be used to design experiments that try to disprove the hypothesis—in this case, whether the butterflies prefer a specific flower for its color. The results of the experiment may also lead to further inductive hypotheses and deductive predictions. For instance, scientists might observe that butterflies tend to avoid flowers with small petals.