What Is Deductive Reasoning? (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 22, 2021
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Deductive reasoning is a key skill many employers look for when hiring new employees. It may be referred to as “top-down” thinking or focusing more on the specifics.

This is different from inductive reasoning, which makes conclusions about general trends based on specific data.

This basic form of valid reasoning typically starts out with a general statement and works to examine the possibilities of a specific and logical conclusion. A common example is an if/then statement. For example, if X=Y and Y=Z, then deductive reasoning tells us that X=Z.

What Is Deductive Reasoning?

Deductive reasoning or deductive logic is defined as the process of reasoning from one or more statements to reach a logical conclusion.

Deductive reasoning assumes that if all premises are true, the terms are clear, and the specific rules of deductive logic are followed, then the conclusion reached is correct. This may like more common sense than anything, but it can be used in a variety of examples.

A simple example could be as follows:

  1. All men are mortal

  2. Bob is a man

  3. Therefore, Bob is mortal

You could also consider a more complicated example, such as:

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  1. The ratio of the squares of the periods of any two planets is equal to the ratio of the cubes of their average distances from the Sun.

  2. Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth.

  3. Therefore, Venus orbits the Sun faster than the Earth.

Those who are using deductive reasoning may call the first point the “first premise,” the second point the “second premise,” and the third point the “inference,” or the final product of your deductive reasoning.

There are technically three types of deductive reasoning. This can include:

  • Syllogism. This is when you conclude from two premises that share a common term with the outcome.

    For example, it could look something like this: all dogs are mammals, and all mammals have four legs. Therefore, all dogs have four legs. While this statement isn’t always true, it shows two assumed premises leading to a common conclusion.

  • Modus ponens. Modeus ponens is affirming the antecedent uses the following formula: If A is true, and A implies B, then B would be true. For example, if Boris went to work on the weekend, and today is Sunday, then Boris is going to work.

  • Modus tollens. Modus tollens is the opposite of modus ponens in that if A implies B, and B is not true, then A is not true. For example, if Boris only works on the weekends and is going to work today, today must be a weekday.

How Deductive Reasoning Works

When using deductive reasoning, the first and second premises are used to reach a conclusion or an inference. For example, perhaps you are a marketing manager who has realized the department is exceeding the existing budget on digital advertising.

Once the numbers have been reviewed, you might realize that while the company’s LinkedIn advertisements get a decent amount of clicks, other avenues for engagement work better.

The manager may use deductive reasoning to decide to reduce LinkedIn advertising spending to stay under budget and instead focus their efforts on different marketing tactics that will help the team maintain their momentum and budget.

This might seem like simple reasoning, but there is actually a process happening in the background of this scenario that looks like this:

  1. Clarifying the issue. Understanding or recognizing the problem is the first step in this process, as well as understanding what’s on the line if it’s not addressed.

  2. Look at the data. Having strong data or proof that something is an issue and might need to be addressed can help inform decisions. Ask questions, dig deeper into the data, and get different opinions, if necessary.

  3. Formulate a hypothesis. The hypothesis will vary by issue or premise, but it is essentially what you consider the reason behind the issue.

  4. Test the hypothesis. This is the stage for action by implementing your proposed solution to see if it solves the problem or issue identified.

  5. Evaluate. Finally, see if your results worked. This means implementing your solution to see if it solves the problem you’ve identified. If your issue isn’t solved, then you should begin the process over until you reach the outcome you want.

Deductive Reasoning vs. Inductive Reasoning

As mentioned briefly above, deductive reasoning differs from inductive reasoning in that inductive reasoning is described as “bottom-up logic,” and deductive is considered “top-down logic.”

This means that inductive reasoning’s conclusion will be reached by making a generalization or relying on general rules that can result in a conclusion that may not be certain.

Deductive reasoning, by contrast, relies on reasoning from facts that are already assumed true. However, it can be possible to come to a logical conclusion even if the generalization is not true. If the generalization is wrong, the conclusion is made with logic but can be untrue simply because one or more instances were also untrue.

Deductive reasoning uses a general idea to reach its specific conclusion, so it may be efficient for a professional to use this type of reasoning if they are looking to formulate and test, say, advertising strategies.

Inductive reasoning, using its specific observations to reach a general conclusion, may be beneficial for a small business owner. They may observe customers waiting to enter their building on the weekends, so from that data, they may decide to open their doors a little earlier on Saturday and Sunday.

Examples of Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning is a significant skill that employers look for during the hiring process. Deductive reasoning isn’t just valuable in specific industries or jobs; it’s a valued skill for everyone.

It is absolutely more useful for those who have management positions who need to manage or make impactful business decisions every day.

If you are a natural at deductive reasoning, see if you can find a way to highlight this skill on your resume or in your interview. If you’re uncertain about specific examples, consider the following ways where deductive reasoning can be used in the workplace:

  • Based on market research, a marketing team looks to discover how much time working mothers spend on getting ready each morning. Based on their research and findings, they found that working mothers only have about ten minutes on average to get ready in the morning due to the responsibilities of dependents and housework

    The marketing team uses deductive reasoning to advertise that a makeup product can be applied in less than two minutes, leaving enough time to get dressed and do your hair. This increases sales for the makeup that is advertised.

  • An individual who is part of a local organization hears that their organization offers free assistance on resumes for their members.

    Because the individual is an active member of the organization and has a resume they need help with, they assume they will not have to pay for resume feedback.

  • A retail owner notices that customers are buying more black leggings than any other type of legging sold in the store.

    Based on this information, the owner decides to spend more of their advertising budget in a local newspaper to promote the black leggings at their store with a discount promoting a two for one deal.

  • A customer retention team noticed that their call logs volume was too high, and they were receiving complaints about how long it took to receive help.

    Therefore, a customer retention manager decided to reduce the required call time for their agents, reducing call time to stop customer complaints and provide a better customer service experience.

  • After reviewing their finances, a university deduced that professionals who graduated from the university and worked in the financial sector are the best alma mater donors.

    They adjust their call lists to encourage their donation callers to target alumni working in finance to help with their next fundraiser.

  • A business collects data that proves theft at work is usually an inside job planned by individuals with criminal backgrounds. To narrow their chances of theft at work, the business runs criminal background checks before hiring new employees.

Deductive Reasoning vs. Inductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning is a method that allows you and individuals you work with to justify and back work-related decisions. Even if the decision isn’t the right one on the first try, deductive reasoning will help you explain why the first decision was made in the first place.

Deductive reasoning is a valuable skill to employers, as most employers want decisive and proactive workers.

When applying for a job, using your deductive reasoning as a major skill you possess can be a significant differentiator for standing out against other applicants. This is extra important if you are applying for a position responsible for management duties or someone who will be making decisions that may affect the whole organization.

Try not to include the specific term “deductive reasoning” on your resume unless it’s mentioned in the job requirements as a keyword. Instead, try to focus on specific examples where you have used deductive reasoning in past work experiences.

Read through the examples above and try to focus this on your own experiences and skills. Using specific examples will allow your potential employer to see what your work ethic looks like and gives better insight into your experience, showing them that you’d be a good fit for their organization.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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