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Intro to Deductive Reasoning: Definition and Examples

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Deductive reasoning is a type of logical thinking used to draw conclusions from facts you already know. For example, maybe you know you need $5 to buy ice cream and that you have $4 in your wallet. So you can use deductive reasoning to deduce that you won’t be able to purchase ice cream today.

While it may seem simple, when applied in the workplace, deductive reasoning is a valuable soft skill employees use to help test new ideas and solve important workplace problems. So, what is deductive reasoning, and how can you use it at work? In this guide, we’ll cover:

What Is Deductive Reasoning?

Deductive reasoning is when you move from a general conclusion to a specific one. You do this by taking two premises and making an inference at the end.

For example:

Premise 1: A is B.

Premise 2: B is C.

Conclusion: C is A.

In context, this might look like:

Premise 1: All companies have employees.

Premise 2: Forage is a company.

Conclusion: Forage has employees.

Deductive reasoning only leads to valid conclusions when both premises are true, and the conclusion logically follows them.

For example:

Premise 1: All Forage employees are hardworking.

Premise 2: Annabeth is a hardworking employee.

Conclusion: Annabeth works at Forage.

While both premises may be true, the conclusion isn’t necessarily valid because there is overgeneralization in the logic. There are hardworking employees at many different companies. To know if Annabeth works at Forage, you must do some research. 

Deductive reasoning gives you a great place to start testing your conclusions — which is especially valuable for companies that want you to help them find innovative solutions.

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Deductive vs. Inductive Reasoning

Both deductive and inductive reasoning are types of logical thinking that can help you solve problems at work — yet their process of reaching conclusions is opposite one another.

Deductive reasoning moves from general to specific, while inductive reasoning goes from specific to general. Inductive reasoning is taking a particular scenario or pattern you’ve observed and drawing a conclusion. For example, if we use the above scenario, inductive reasoning would look like this:

Observed fact 1: Forage has employees.

Observed trend: All companies have employees.

Conclusion: Forage is a company.

>>MORE: What Is Inductive Reasoning?

How Is Deductive Reasoning Used in the Workplace?

Deductive reasoning helps you become a better problem-solver at work. This skill is most helpful for developing hypotheses to test. 

Gretchen Skalka, leadership and career development coach, gives the example of a corporate trainer trying to increase attendance in their course:

You might notice that “attendance rates are highest for classes where food and snacks are provided. Therefore, you provide food and snacks to ensure high participation in all classes. All classes fill up except the Friday afternoon classes.

Using deductive reasoning, you’ve used observation and experience to reason that your conclusion (food and snacks guarantee participation across the board) is incorrect.”

Deductive reasoning in the workplace generally follows these steps:

  1. Identify a problem or phenomenon that’s happening at work.
  2. Research and ask questions about the problem or phenomenon to understand all the moving parts.
  3. From your research, come up with a theory for how to fix the problem or replicate the phenomenon.
  4. Test the theory.
  5. Start again at step three if you don’t get the desired results. If you get the desired results, you’ve solved the workplace problem!

This type of reasoning helps employees “test and learn” solutions to bigger problems. In the above example, the corporate trainer theorizes that bringing food to the course will increase attendance. They test this by bringing food to all their course sections. Unfortunately, this theory isn’t correct, so they’ll need to try something else to boost attendance rates.

Other Examples of Deductive Reasoning at Work

  • A financial analyst notices that their clients are more likely to buy the A package than the B package. The company decides to focus on selling A packages to see if that would increase revenue.
  • A writer researches their past articles and learns articles that end with a “related articles” section have more clicks. They start including a “related articles” section on all of their articles to test if the number of clicks will increase.
  • A marketer reads a report that Gen Z’ers use Twitter more than their older counterparts. They decide to run their next Gen Z-oriented campaign on Twitter instead of other social media platforms. 

How to Include Deductive Reasoning Skills in a Job Application

The best way to show your deductive reasoning skills to a potential employer is to walk through your decision-making process while solving a problem. Even if you don’t have professional work experience, refer to when you had to test a hypothesis and use your logical thinking skills to solve a problem.

For example, maybe you were a professor’s assistant for a psychology course and held two extra help sessions before an exam. You found that students in the first help session performed better on the exam than the second one, so you set out to discover why that might have happened.

In the first help session, you reviewed the professor’s review sheet. In the second session, you reviewed the textbook. You hypothesize that reviewing the review sheet leads to higher scores. For the next exam, you decide to use this method in both sections. After taking action based on your hypothesis, students score higher on average than in the last exam. 

In the interview, explain the general trend you noticed and what steps you took to identify the cause to show the employer your deductive reasoning skills. Then, explain why you made those choices or how you tried again if your hypothesis wasn’t correct. 

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How to Improve Deductive Reasoning Skills

The best way to improve these skills is first by becoming aware of how you use deductive reasoning in everyday life — then by practicing the skill at home and with others.

Become Aware of Your Deductive Reasoning

To hone in on your deductive reasoning skills, start questioning how you come to conclusions, big or small, professional or personal. Maybe it’s something as simple as deducing that because you’ve made a cake with gluten, your gluten-free friend won’t be able to eat it. Perhaps it’s more work-related, like believing videos are the best way to bring a young audience to a website and telling your boss you should include more videos in your ad campaigns.

Once you recognize your deductive reasoning skills, you can better apply them to workplace scenarios and become a more efficient problem-solver.

Embrace Tradition

Logic puzzles can help increase your deductive reasoning skills by helping you make valid, logical inferences based on the information given to you. In addition, playing these games gives you a low-stakes environment to try your hand at making conclusions without any pressure of underperforming at work.

Ask Questions 

The act of asking questions requires the use of deductive reasoning through listening right from the get go,” Skalka says. “Ask people why they did X or Y things, how they arrived at the decision they made, what they achieved or learned in the process and so on. Asking questions flexes and strengthens the deductive reasoning skill muscle more than anything else.” 

When you understand how people arrived at their conclusion, you’ll be better prepared to test your deductive reasoning theories.

The Bottom Line

Chances are you use deductive reasoning in everyday life, even if you don’t notice it. Yet that doesn’t mean you can’t also intentionally use it in the workplace for solving complex problems. Deductive reasoning helps you develop theories to test and iterate at work. These outside-of-the-box, innovative ideas can lead to tangible results that can set you apart from the team and show you’re a creative-thinking, effective employee.

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Quoted Sources

Gretchen Skalka is a leadership and career development coach and owner of Career Insights Consulting, LLC. She has over 13 years of experience as a career mentor and helps professionals with their job search, interview strategy and preparation, resumes, and cover letters.

Image credit: Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels

Zoe Kaplan is a Senior Writer at Forage. Prior to joining Forage, she wrote and edited career and workplace content for Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women.

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