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How logical reasoning works

By Jasper28 April 2020

logical reasoning cognitive skillYou use logical reasoning from simple problem solving during your work to being a jury member in court, it’s a cognitive skill we benefit from is all kinds of situations. Logic is also one of the most important factors when measuring someone’s IQ during an IQ-test. Although logical reasoning is finding the most reasonable solution to a problem, how logical reasoning works can be quite a bit more complex than that. In this article, we’ll explain you everything you need to know about the logical reasoning.

What is logical reasoning?

Logical reasoning is the process of using rational and systematic series of steps to come to a conclusion for a given statement. The situations that ask for logical reasoning require structure, a relationship between given facts and chains of reasoning that are sensible. Because you have to study a problem objectively with logical reasoning, analysing is an important factor within the process.
Logical reasoning starts with a proposition or statement. This statement can be both true or false.

Why is logical reasoning important?logical reasoning

Logical reasoning, in combination with other cognitive skills, is an important skill you use during all kinds of daily situations. It helps you make important decisions, discern the truth, solve problems, come up with new ideas and set achievable goals. Logical reasoning is also an important aspect of measuring intelligence during an IQ-test.

The three types of logical reasoning

Logical reasoning can be divided into deductive-, inductive- and abductive reasoning. While inductive reasoning starts with a specific instance and moves into a generalized conclusion, deductive reasoning goes from a generalized principle that is known to be true to a specific conclusion that is true. And abductive reasoning is making a probable conclusion from what you know.

logical reasoning types


We’ll explain each type of logical reasoning further:

Inductive reasoning

With inductive reasoning, a number of specific observations lead to a general rule. With this method, the premises are viewed as supplying some evidence for the truth of a conclusion. With inductive reasoning, there is an element of probability. In other words, forming a generalization based on what is known or observed.  
While this sounds like the theory you will use during a debate or discussion, this is something you do every day in much simpler situations as well.
We’ll explain this type of logical reasoning with an example:
There are 28 balls within a basket, which are either red or white. To estimate the amount of red and white balls, you take a sample of four balls. The sample you took, exists out of three red and one white ball. Using good inductive generalization would be that there are 21 red and 7 white balls in the basket. As already explained, the conclusion drawn from his type of reasoning isn’t certain but is probable based on the evidence given (the sample of balls you took).
Questions which require to perform inductive reasoning are a part of IQ-tests. An example of a little more complex question like just explained with the balls is the one of the image below. To come to a conclusion to solve this problem, both inductive reasoning and pattern recognition skills are required. Looking at the sequence of tiles with different patterns of dots, which tile should be on the place of the question mark? A, B, C, D, E or F?

inductive reasoning example question

To answer this question, you first have to observe the given situation, which are 5 tiles with all a different pattern of dots. To find out which tile should be on the place of the question mark, you have to find a pattern and generalize the given situation to come to a conclusion. Looking at the first and fifth tile, you will notice that they are the same. Meaning that in this situation, the pattern of four different tiles will repeat itself after the fourth tile. So the answer to the question is A.

Deductive reasoning

With deductive reasoning, factual statements are used to come to a logical conclusion. If all the premises (factual statements) are true, the terms are clear and all the rules of deductive logic are followed to come to a conclusion, then the conclusion will also be true. In this case, the conclusion isn’t probable, but certain.
Deductive reasoning is also known as “top-down” logic, because it (in most cases) starts with a general statement and will end with a specific conclusion.

We’ll explain deductive reasoning with an example, with 2 given premises:

  • It’s dangerous to drive while it’s freezing (premise 1)

  • It is currently freezing outside (premise 2)

So, we now know that it is dangerous to drive when it is freezing, and it is currently freezing outside. Using deductive reasoning, these two premises can help us form necessarily true conclusion, which is:

  • It is currently dangerous to drive outside (conclusion)

Situations in which you use deductive reasoning can come in many forms, such as mathematics. Whether you are designing your own garden or managing your time, you use deductive reasoning while doing math daily. An example is solving the following math problem:

  • All corners of a rectangle are always 180° (premise 1)

  • The following rectangle has one right angle, which is always 90° (premise 2)

The second angle is 60° (premise 3)

deductive example math


How much degrees is the third angle (X)?
To answer this question, you can use the three premises to come to the conclusion how much degrees the third hook is. The conclusion should be 180° (premise 1) -90° (premise 2) - 60° (premise 3) = 30° (conclusion)


Abductive reasoning

With abductive reasoning, the major premise is evident but the minor premise(s) is probable. Therefore, defining a conclusion would also make this conclusion probable. You start with an observation, followed by finding the most likely explanation for the observations. In other words, it is a type of logical reasoning you use when you form a conclusion with the (little) information that is known.
An example of using abductive reasoning to come to a conclusion is a decision made by a jury. In this case, a group of people have to come to a solution based on the available evidence and witness testimonies. Based on this possibly incomplete information, they form a conclusion.
A more common example is when you wake up in the morning, and you head downstairs. In the kitchen, you find a plate on the table, a half-eaten sandwich and half a glass of milk. From the premises that are available, you will come up with the most likely explanation for this. Which could be that your partner woke up before you and left in a hurry, without finishing his or her breakfast.

inductive deductive abductive reasoning example


How does logical thinking relate to problem-solving?

As previously mentioned, the different types of logical reasoning (inductive, deductive and abductive) help you to form conclusions based on the current situation and known facts. This very closely correlates to problem-solving, as finding the most probable solution to resolve a problem is a similar conclusion.
Logical thinking, and thereby problem solving, goes through the following five steps to draw a conclusion and/or find a solution:

  1. Collecting information about the current situation. Determining what the current problem is, and what premises apply. Let’s say you want to go out for a drive, but it’s freezing outside.

  2. Analyzing this information. What information is relevant to the situation, and what isn’t. In this case, the fact that it’s freezing is relevant for your safety on the road. The fact that you might get cold isn’t, as you’d be in your car.

  3. Forming a conclusion. What can you conclude from this information? The roads might be more dangerous because it’s freezing.

  4. Support your conclusion. You might look at traffic information to see that there have been more accidents today, in which case, that supports the conclusion that driving is more dangerous today.

  5. Defend your conclusion. Is this conclusion correct for your case? If you don’t have winter tires it would be more accurate than when you do.
problem solving steps

How to improve logical thinking and problem-solving skills?

Because there are so many different situations in which you use logical thinking and problem-solving, this isn’t a cognitive skill you can train specifically. Luckily, there are many methods that might help you to improve your logical thinking skills. These include methods to keep your general cognitive abilities healthy as well as methods to train your logical thinking skills. These are:

  • Learning something new

  • Exercising

  • Social interaction

  • Healthy nutrition

  • Ensure enough sleep

  • Avoid stress

  • Preferably no alcohol

  • Spend time on creative hobbies

  • Practice questioning

  • Try to anticipate the outcome of your decisions

  • Brain training to challenge your logical reasoning skills


improve logical thinking skill



So logical reasoning is following a series of steps based on a given statement to come to a conclusion when, for example, problem-solving. A well-developed mind might help you to make important decisions, solve problems, come up with new ideas etc. Depending on the problem to solve, you use inductive-, deductive- or abductive reasoning to form a solution to the problem. Logical reasoning as a form of problem-solving could be improved by both taking care of your general cognitive abilities as well as training it by challenging your mind in different ways.