Abductive reasoning usually starts with an incomplete set of observations and proceeds to the likeliest possible explanation for the group of observations, according to Butte College. It is based on making and testing hypotheses using the best information available. It often entails making an educated guess after observing a phenomenon for which there is no clear explanation.
For example, a person walks into their living room and finds torn up papers all over the floor. The person’s dog has been alone in the room all day. The person concludes that the dog tore up the papers because it is the most likely scenario. Now, the person’s sister may have brought by his niece and she may have torn up the papers, or it may have been done by the landlord, but the dog theory is the more likely conclusion.
Abductive reasoning is useful for forming hypotheses to be tested. Abductive reasoning is often used by doctors who make a diagnosis based on test results and by jurors who make decisions based on the evidence presented to them.