Hypothetical Reasoning: Main Characteristics

Hypothetical  reasoning  is an analytical procedure in common use in a large number of scientific disciplines, and is based on the development of theories or hypotheses. 
With different levels of complexity, the application of hypothetical reasoning occurs both in the scientific field and in the daily and social one.

Hypothetical reasoning is one of the bases on which the problem-solving capacity of the human being is sustained.
Despite its importance, the human being does not begin to develop this ability until adolescence.

This type of reasoning requires the establishment of a hypothesis. For example, if it is observed that the average temperature of the Earth has decreased, one hypothesis is that the solar radiation has decreased.

Scientific application


All branches of science have points in common. Reasoning processes, such as the hypothetico-deductive, are a connecting link.

Many topics can be passed through the filter of hypothetical reasoning: from mathematical problem solving to computer programming to developmental psychology.

In the field of programming, one of the greatest challenges is to implement this type of reasoning in the information processors.

As it is a study that requires analyzing possible errors, the boundaries of failure are difficult to define through an operating system.

Hypothetical reasoning and psychological development

Apart from the capacity for abstraction, the possibility of anticipating the possible results of an action is a fundamental part of human cognitive development. The passage from childhood to adolescence is defined, among others, by this aspect.

Analyzing the different setbacks that can occur and solving them selectively is part of the brain development of the species. This process is achieved through the application of hypothetical reasoning.

Steps of hypothetical reasoning

To establish a hypothetical reasoning, a procedure must be followed. Both in a laboratory and in any everyday situation, the routine follows the same steps.

1- Formulation

At first, it requires devising and analyzing various hypotheses related to the subject on which it is intended to draw conclusions.

At this point, thought is open and must be closed until the next step is reached.

2- Selecting a scenario

After reflecting on the options that can be given, the next step is the choice.

To test a hypothesis, you must first choose which one is considered most likely.

3- Prediction

Once the theory to work on is clear, it is time to generate reasoning about the consequences that could occur.

4- Put to the test

After selecting the hypothesis that best suits the situation and its possible consequences, the next step is to put it to the test.

At this point, the corresponding hypothesis is put into practice, seeking to verify if the predicted scenario actually occurs.

5- Checking 

When the analysis of the result is finished, the final point is to confirm whether the hypothesis was true or not.

In case the predictions were correct, the hypothesis is tested; if they were not correct, it is discredited.


  1. Angela Oswalt. Jean PiagetĀ“s Theory Of Cognitive Development. (November 17, 2010). Retrieved from mentalhelp.net
  2. Hypothetical-Deductive Reasoning. (April 11, 2011). Retrieved from istarassessment.org
  3. Individual differences in hypothetical-deductive reasoning: Importance of flexibility and cognitive abilities. (September 12, 2007). Obtained from infocop.es
  4. Pier Luigi Ferrari. Aspects Of Hypothetical Reasoning In Problem Solving. (sf). Retrieved from link.springer.com
  5. Katsumi Inoue. Hypothetical Reasoning in Logic Programs. (1994) The Journal of Logic Programming, April 1994, 191-194. Recovered from sciencedirect.com

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