LiveScience posted an article entitled “Deductive reasoning vs Inductive Reasoning” on January 30, 2023 by Alina Bradford and Mindy Weisberger. It got me thinking about how do we reason in resolving a dispute. Deductively? Inductively? Or a little of both?

Let’s start with the basics. As the post explains,

Deductive reasoning, also known as deduction, is a basic form of reasoning. It starts out with a general statement or hypothesis, and examines the possibilities to reach a specific, logical conclusion… The scientific method uses deduction to test hypotheses and theories….”

… For example,” All spiders have eight legs. A tarantula is a spider. Therefore, tarantulas have eight legs.“  (Id. at 2.)

As the post notes, the initial hypothesis must be correct. Thus, if one tests, “All bald men are grandfathers. Harold is bald. Therefore, Harold is a grandfather.”, we know that this is not true, although Dr. Spock would argue it is perfectly logical. (Id.)

By contrast, inductive reasoning goes from the specific to the general:

“We make many observations, discern a pattern, make a generalization, and infer an explanation or a theory,”

… In other words, the reliability of a conclusion made with inductive logic depends on the completeness of the observations.  For instance, let’s say that you have a bag of coins; you pull three coins from the bag, and each coin is a penny. Using inductive logic, you might then propose that all of the coins in the bag are pennies.”  Even though all of the initial observations — that each coin taken from the bag was a penny — are correct, inductive reasoning does not guarantee that the conclusion will be true.” (Id. at 4.)

But, on the other hand, one could say, “Penguins are birds. Penguins can’t fly. Therefore, all birds can’t fly.” (Id.) We know this to be wrong! (Id.)

Returning to resolving conflicts, do we go from the general to the specific facts or from the specific facts to the general? As I have noted in my blogs, I mediate a lot of lemon law matters. Do the parties start with the premise that a certain manufacturer produces a certain model that has had lots or problems (i.e., “lemons”) and therefore the particular vehicle at issue, being  the same make and model, is a “lemon”? (That is, deductive reasoning?) Or do the parties think, “my car is a lemon, therefore all vehicles of the same make and model are lemons?” (That is, inductive reasoning?)

As one might suspect, neither statement is always true.  Yet, parties are quick to jump to assumptions using such deductive or inductive reasoning.  They have even used deductive reasoning (i.e., going from the general to the specific) using their own vehicle as the sole example. That is,” my vehicle has been in the repair shop X number of times; therefore, it must be a “lemon”.   As a defendant manufacturer will often be quick to point out to the mediator, the second statement may not always flow from the first.

And when it comes to settlement, deductive reasoning  is usually used. The parties start with the most general of  terms for settlement.  As the mediation progresses, they start discussing specifics, or as one of my colleagues often said,  they get real specific by asking “What’s in it for me?”

As the article notes, when using deductive reasoning, one must test the general statement to see if it, indeed, leads to the specific statement. Similarly, when using inductive theory, one must test the specific statement to determine if it really does lead to the general statement. Assumptions will not do.  So it is true with using reasoning to resolve conflicts!  The moral: be careful in reasoning your way through a conflict! The reasoning /logic may be faulty!

… Just something to think about.




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