Individual differences in strategies for syllogistic reasoning

Thinking and Reasoning 9 (2):133 – 168 (2003)
Current theories of reasoning such as mental models or mental logic assume a universal cognitive mechanism that underlies human reasoning performance. However, there is evidence that this is not the case, for example, the work of Ford (1995), who found that some people adopted predominantly spatial and some verbal strategies in a syllogistic reasoning task. Using written and think-aloud protocols, the present study confirmed the existence of these individual differences. However, in sharp contrast to Ford, the present study found few differences in reasoning performance between the two groups, in terms of accuracy or type of conclusion generated. Hence, reasoners present an outward appearance of ubiquity, despite underlying differences in reasoning processes. These findings have implications for theoretical accounts of reasoning, and for attempts to model reasoning data. Any comprehensive account needs to account for strategic differences and how these may develop in logically untrained individuals.
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