28 Abductive Thinking

Warning: This chapter may shake up your world a little bit. You may never look at things the same way again.

An Educated Guess

Have you ever heard of abduction? (It has nothing to do with aliens.) It's an incredibly important kind of thinking but one that school generally doesn't teach. Abductive thinking is a guess. Guessing in critical thinking—how bizarre is that? But when your premise doesn't yield satisfactory solutions, inside or outside of the box, it might be time to look at abductive thinking.

You form abductive conclusions by using knowledge but not experience. It's an educated guess based on what you know. Therefore, abduction requires a deep, extensive knowledge base. Abduction supports Sir Francis Bacon's view that “Knowledge is power.” Knowledge gives you choices. Where do you get most of your knowledge? From your experience. The more experience you have, the more knowledge you have.

As you can see, there's somewhat of a paradox to abductive thinking. You need an extensive base of knowledge to abduct (guess). More experience gives you more knowledge, but the more experience you have, the stronger your inductive reasoning—making it less likely that you'll guess, because you know already. For example, if I take 10,000 marbles out of a bucket, and all 10,000 are red, what will be the color of the next marble I take out of the bucket? Your 10,000 experiences make your premise very strong, so you would say “red” and be willing to wager on it. Of course, ...

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