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Inductive and Deductive Reasoning

Technicians may not realilze it, but the concept of inductive and deductive reasoning is part of our job when we’re working with customers. The difference between the two types of reasoning is simply this:

Deductive reasoning, in its simplest form, is defined as the process of applying certain given premises or experiences to a definite conclusion. An example of this could be a child’s first encounter with a billiard ball that is blue with a number inside a circle. If that’s the only billiard ball the child has ever seen, then he or she could make the assumption that all billiard balls are blue with a number inside the circle. Of course, those of us who have seen a complete pool table know that all the balls are not the same color and employ the same numbering style, so we would not ‘deduce’ that all billiard balls are the same, but, you get my point. Without experience and exposure to information, deductive reasoning can allow someone to arrive at an incorrect conclusion.

Inductive reasoning, on the other hand, allows for the possibility that the conclusion can be false, even if the premises all appear to be true.

How does this apply to our job and dealing with customers? Well, even though technicians have a good understanding of the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning, it’s possible for them to be influenced by a given number of instances (premises) that they may enounter on a given day, along with exposure to information from others that isn’t necessarily correct. And, these experiences and false information causes people to lean toward deductive reasoning even though they know intellectually that inductive reasoning should be applied.

“People only care about getting the lowest possible price for a repair,” for example, is false deductive reasoning….reasoning that comes about and creeps into a technician’s belief system because they encounter people who, do, in fact, want nothing more than the lowest price they can get, and then if they hear it enough times from other technicians at the supply house, intellect and common sense (which is really the foundation of inductive reasoning) starts to fade.

Of course, we can’t draw the conclusion that all customers want nothing but a low price just because there are some out there that fit that description. It just doesn’t make sense. But, like I said, a few experiences in a row piled on with false information from peers, can cause anyone to lean toward a false conclusion if they don’t stop and consciously think about it.

You can apply this concept to anything we encounter in life……like traffic fines, for example.

Often, people are of the opinion that all traffic fines are about nothing but revenue (especially after they’re just been busted for speeding), and have nothing to do with public safety. Well, that’s deductive reasoning at work there. While it’s likely true that some traffic fine situations are essentially about revenue rather than public safety, inductive reasoning allows us  to understand that an idiot could be doing 100 MPH in a 35-mile zone, and in that case, of course, it would be about public saftey rather than just revenue, so not all traffic fines are levied just to pay for the operation of vehicles, salaries for law-enforcement officers, etc….but of course inductive reasoning also allows us to understand that some of them are levied because every agency has bills to pay.

If you have some suggestions on other areas in which deductive reasoning sends people down the wrong path of thinking, let me know, and we can add your comments to this post.

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