Solving categorical syllogisms with singular premises

Thinking and Reasoning 14 (4):434-454 (2011)
We elaborate on the approach to syllogistic reasoning based on “case identification” (Stenning & Oberlander, 1995; Stenning & Yule, 1997). It is shown that this can be viewed as the formalisation of a method of proof that dates back to Aristotle, namely proof by exposition ( ecthesis ), and that there are traces of this method in the strategies described by a number of psychologists, from St rring (1908) to the present day. We hypothesised that by rendering individual cases explicit in the premises, the chance that reasoners would engage in a proof by exposition would be enhanced, and thus performance improved. To do so, we used syllogisms with singular premises (e.g., this X is Y ). This resulted in a uniform increase in performance as compared to performance on the associated standard syllogisms. These results cannot be explained by the main theories of syllogistic reasoning in their current state
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