Deductive and Inductive Reasoning: Which is Better?

Ryan Eidson  —  June 30, 2014

In my previous post, I wrote about the differences between deductive and inductive reasoning. The question that naturally comes after that discussion is: which is better, deductive logic or inductive logic?

Are stories better than a three-point speech?

deductive-and-inductive-reasoning-speaking

Photo of Mark Goulston by flickr user Nan Palmero | cc

The question you should ask instead is:

What type of logic will your audience comprehend?

I’ve found that all audiences love stories. But few audiences appreciate a three-point didactic approach.

Ten minutes after they leave the room, ask your audience members how many of your three points they remembered. Most will struggle to recall one. A couple people might remember two points. Yet they’ll be able to recall the stories with the most impact right off the bat!

Allow me to explain with a brief history lesson.

Deductive logic came about from the Greeks and Romans.

This is the foundation of our modern educational system, too.

The “university sermon” also pushed the general-to-specific logic forward in the institutional church. The three-point sermon came from rhetoric, not from the first century.

Inductive logic is older. Man has told stories since man has walked the earth.

“Pre-literate men lived in a world which received its intellectual, religious, and social structure through story.” —Sam Keene

And inductive reasoning is back at the forefront. Storytelling is very post-modern and is used in much of corporate marketing now. Just look at Apple’s current campaign for one example: “What will your verse be?”

In our post-literate culture, entertainment feeds our knowledge rather than lecture-style classrooms. The deductive method, as a framework for an entire speech or book, is quickly dying with young people.

So what should you do?

Move from the known to the unknown, from analogy to reality. Use storytelling. Begin with life and experience; don’t just give a rational exercise.

Help the audience come to a conclusion with you, instead of telling them your conclusion up front and spending the next 30 to 60 minutes defending yourself as the audience crosses their arms and thinks to themselves, “Prove it!”

You’ve learned from your experience. Now, re-create that learning experience for your audience and walk them through shared experience and cooperative conclusions.

Stories will help you communicate your ideas easier, and your audience will remember them longer as well.

Yes, there actually is a better method of the two: inductive.

You can’t allow people to see the fallacies of their thinking unless you guide them through questions inductively.

Use the inductive method as much as possible when you communicate. Your audience will get a whole new appreciation for you.

Sure, there will be times, especially toward the end of your speeches, articles, or other content, that you will use deductive reasoning. But start with narrative. Start with stories.

The inductive method is part of what makes novels, movies, and even the Wisdom Thesis method so powerful.

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Ryan Eidson

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I have the unique ability to make complex ideas easy to understand. I am the author of A Couple with Common Cents and live in rural Missouri.