There are many mental tools we can use and improve upon to make important decisions at work. Reasoning is one that often occurs naturally and includes inductive, deductive and abductive methods. In this article, we define what deductive reasoning is and how you can use it in professional settings.
Related: Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning
What is deductive reasoning?
Deductive reasoning is the process of drawing a conclusion based on premises that are generally assumed to be true. Also called "deductive logic," this act uses a logical premise to reach a logical conclusion. Deductive reasoning is often referred to as "top-down reasoning." If something is assumed to be true and another thing relates to the first assumption, then the original truth must also hold true for the second thing.
For example, if a car’s trunk is large and a bike does not fit into the trunk, then you may assume the bike must also be large. We know this because we were already provided with the information we assume to be true—the trunk is large. Based on our deductive reasoning skills, we know if a bike does not fit in an already large trunk, then it must also be large. So long as the two premises are based on accurate information, the outcome of this type of conclusion is often true.
Syllogism deductive reasoning
One of the most common types of deductive reasoning is a syllogism. Syllogism refers to two statements—a major and a minor statement—join to form a logical conclusion. The two accurate statements mean that the statement will likely be true for all additional premises of that category.
The reliability of deductive reasoning
While deductive reasoning is considered a reliable form of testing, it’s important to recognize it may sometimes lead to a false conclusion. This generally occurs when one of the first assumptive statements is false. It is also possible to come to an accurate conclusion even if one or both of the generalized premises are false.
Inductive vs. deductive:
Inductive reasoning is the act of making generalized conclusions based off of specific scenarios.
Deductive reasoning is the act of backing up a generalized statement with specific scenarios.
Deductive reasoning examples
Here are several examples to help you better understand deductive reasoning:
- My state requires all lawyers pass the bar to practice. If I do not pass the bar, then I will not be able to represent someone legally.
- My boss said the person with the highest sales would get a promotion at the end of the year. I generated the highest sales, so I am looking forward to a promotion.
- Our biggest sales come from executives who live in our company’s home state. Based on this information, we have decided to allocate more of our marketing dollars to targeting executives in that state.
- One of our customers is unhappy with his experience. He does not like how long it takes for a return phone call. Therefore, if we provide a quicker response, he will be more satisfied.
- I must have 40 credits to graduate this spring. Because I only have 38 credits, I will not be graduating this spring.
- The career counseling center at my college is offering free resume reviews to students. I am a student and I plan on having my resume reviewed, so I will not have to pay anything for this service.
Each of these statements includes two accurate pieces of information and an assumption based on the first two pieces of information. So long as the first two pieces of information are correct, the assumption should also be accurate.
The deductive reasoning process
Understanding the process of deductive reasoning can help you apply logic to solve challenges in your work.
Deductive thought uses only information assumed to be accurate. It does not include emotions, feelings, or assumptions without evidence because it’s difficult to determine the accuracy of this information.
The process of deductive reasoning includes the following steps:
- Initial assumption. Deductive reasoning begins with an assumption. This assumption is usually a generalized statement that if something is true, then it must be true in all cases.
- Second premise. A second premise is made in relation to the first assumption. If the first statement is true, then the second related statement must also be true.
- Testing. Next, the deductive assumption is tested in a variety of scenarios.
- Conclusion. Based on the results of the test, the information is determined to be valid or invalid.
When to use deductive reasoning
There are many ways you can use deductive reasoning to make decisions in your professional life. Here are a few ways you can use this process to draw conclusions throughout your career:
Using deductive reasoning in the workplace
Learning to apply existing deductive reasoning skills during the decision-making process will help you make better-informed choices in the workplace. You may use deductive reasoning when finding and acquiring a job, hiring employees, managing employees, working with customers and making a variety of business or career decisions.
Deductive reasoning in the workplace requires the following skills:
Many roles require you to use problem-solving skills to overcome challenges and discover reliable resolutions. You can apply the deductive reasoning process to your problem-solving efforts by first identifying an accurate assumption you can use as a foundation for your solution. Deductive reasoning often leads to fewer errors because it reduces guesswork.
Many organizations expect employees to work together in teams to achieve results. Teams are often composed of employees with varying work styles, which can hinder collaboration and reduce productivity. Using the process of deductive reasoning, you can identify where the problem lies and draw accurate conclusions and help team members align.
You can apply deductive reasoning skills to the customer service experience, too. Using this process, you can determine an appropriate solution to a customer’s problem. By identifying what the customer is unhappy with and then connecting it to what you know about their experience, you can adequately address their concern and increase customer satisfaction.
Highlight your deductive reasoning skills when looking for a job
While deductive reasoning is often used in the research and science industries, it can also be applied in nearly any position where you have to make important decisions or solve complex challenges. Because many employers value problem-solving abilities, it’s helpful to highlight your deductive reasoning skills during the hiring process.
You can demonstrate your deductive reasoning knowledge by listing it as a skill on your resume or sharing it within a cover letter. During interviews, discuss examples of how you use deductive reasoning in your current role, or how you’ll apply this skill in your new position.
Using deductive reasoning with the STAR method
Using the STAR interview technique is a great opportunity to demonstrate a scenario in which you used deductive reasoning in a professional environment.
The STAR technique includes the following parts:
- Situation. Discuss the situation when you applied this logical reasoning skill. Include details about the problem and your work environment.
- Task. Discuss the problem that you faced the hypothesis you identified, and include the process you used to determine the premises were accurate.
- Action. Highlight the specific, actionable steps you used to solve the problem.
- Result. Share the specific outcome of the situation. For example, were you able to solve a customer’s problem or prevent the organization from making a costly mistake?
Practicing the STAR technique ahead of time can help you prepare for an upcoming interview. It can also help you find ways to include examples of deductive reasoning while also demonstrating your problem-solving skills.
Deductive reasoning is a useful method for reaching conclusions, such as solving a problem or overcoming a challenge. Learning to strengthen this skill set can help you impress employers throughout your job search and improve your performance at work.
Other types of reasoning
There are two other main reasoning processes that can be useful in certain situations:
What is inductive reasoning?
Inductive reasoning is the opposite of deductive reasoning. In this process, you would gather generalized information from specific scenarios to come to a conclusion, rather than taking specific assumptions from generalized scenarios.
Inductive reasoning is often used to create a hypothesis rather than apply them to different scenarios. With inductive reasoning, the accuracy of the outcome is probable, but not always true, even if each of the first two statements is accurate.
Here are several examples of inductive reasoning:
- All of the managers at my office have college degrees. Therefore, you must have a college degree to become a manager.
- My boss said someone would get a raise at the end of the year. My sales were the highest on the team. I must be getting a raise.
- I normally leave work after 6 p.m. and I am usually able to avoid traffic. As long as I leave work after 6 p.m., I will always miss traffic.
- My boss is lenient and does not care when I am late. I am late to the office every day. Therefore, I will never be reprimanded for being late to work.
Each of these statements could imply the final premise to be true. However, it is also possible that the first assumption(s) are not rooted in fact, which means the conclusion could also be false.
What is abductive reasoning?
Abductive reasoning uses all the available information, even if it’s incomplete, to determine the most likely outcome or an educated guess. While it uses the best information currently available, it’s usually not enough to make a fully informed, certain conclusion. With abductive reasoning, it is also possible that the conclusion cannot be tested.