Thursday, March 10, 2005

Critical Thinking - Inductive and Deductive Reasoning

Inductive and deductive learning are like two sides of a coin. Reasoning by deduction involves rule-based learning, where a rule directs the logic of different conclusions. Reasoning by induction, on the other hand, involves recognizing different patterns from different facts, and then synthesizing a plausible rule. Deduction is very important when you have all the rules in hand, but inductive reasoning may be a stronger tool when the rules are incomplete, a completely different approach is desired, or existing information is misleading or contradictory. Not surprisingly, inductive reasoning is important for virtually all types of creative work, including engineering, science, and the humanities.

Ideally, we would like to train both forms of reasoning in students, but by their nature, deductive thinking is much easier to demonstrate, at least in a lecture format. In the latest paper comparing the views of deductive and inductive reasoning, it looks like inductive approaches require more brain power - maybe because one has to consider several patterns or rules in mind before reaching a conclusion. There are areas of overlap between deduction and induction, but areas of difference as well.

In this study, look at the various parts of the brain that become activated when 2 different patterns are considered at once. The areas that are activated are not at the very front or the very back (frontal or visual brain areas) - rather they are at the borderzones between these regions- presumably so information can mingle.

Now, we would think that computer-based programs could be a powerful route for teaching or training inductive learning. Unlike the lecture format, interactive computer-based programs could have a number of advantages over traditional lecturing or open 'learning lab'.

Computer-based educational programs could:

- strike a balance between copying from the board and discovery-based learning (after all, true discovery is really slow)
- show different outcomes of alternate lines of reasoning
- hint a lot without telling
- challenge students individually to recognize patterns and make predictions(less hiding in a group or clapping for credit)

Inductive and Deductive fMRI Study
Ravens fMRI
Inductive Reasoning Lessons
Inductive Language Arts
Inductive Math


  1. Hi !

    Wow, your posts change over quickly!

    You asked for my recs on creative/lateral/horizintal thinking. Here are some

    Ed DeBono, Lateral Thinking

    John Boyd, " Destruction and Creation" (Boyd was the late military strategist who developed the E-M Theory of applied physics that revolutionized fighter aircraft design and arial combat tactics).

    A couple of consultants worth looking at:

    Roger Taylor

    John Samara

    Denis Berkson

  2. We can change the format (few posts up per day) if people prefer it that way. It helps indexing a bit to do it a post per day (and it helps those who don't like to scroll), but it is also a nuisance for keeping the conversation going and for those who visit every few days.

    Thanks for the references. We've also been reading On Intelligence (Hawkins and Blakeslee) -and that has a lot of implications for the discussion of creativity too. We'd like to look up some of the consultants you've mentioned and maybe talk about them.

    Blogger also seems to be having some trouble with the 'add a comments' - hopefully this will get better.