Conditional reasoning with a spatial content requires visuo-spatial working memory

Thinking and Reasoning 9 (3):267 – 287 (2003)
In previous research, Toms, Morris, and Ward (1993) have shown that conditional reasoning is impaired by a concurrent task calling on executive functions but not by concurrent tasks that load on the slave systems of the working memory system as conceptualised by Baddeley and Hitch (1974). The present article replicates and extends this previous work by studying problems based on spatial as well as nonspatial relations. In the study 42 participants solved 16 types of spatial or nonspatial problems, both in a single-task condition and under concurrent matrix tapping, a task loading the visuo-spatial sketch pad. The findings were consistent with those of Toms et al. (1993) for problems with a nonspatial content. However, when the content was spatial, and only then, a dual-task impairment was observed: processing time of the first premise was lengthened, especially for problems with negations in the antecedent term, the consequent term, or both; moreover, the number of correctly solved problems with negations in both terms was smaller. The implications of these findings for the mental models theory and the mental logic theory are discussed.
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