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Syllogistic Reasoning Tasks, Working Memory, and Skill

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The involvement of working memory sub-systems in syllogistic reasoning problems was assessed by dual task methods. Effects of skill level and training on working memory involvement in syllogistic reasoning were examined. In Study 1, participants were pre-selected into groups of High and Low skill at syllogistic reasoning on the basis of a pencil-and-paper screening test. Six separate High and Low skill groups completed syllogistic reasoning tasks in control conditions and each group was also tested under one of the following six dual task conditions: articulatory suppression, unattended speech, verbal random generation, spatial random generation, tapping in a simple pattern, unattended pictures. The results indicated that the more skilled participants were generally following a high demand strategy, which loaded the central executive, phonological loop and imagery sub-systems, but that lower skill participants were generally following a less demanding strategy which did not load working memory components so heavily. In two Pilot Studies a training procedure was assessed and validated. In Study 2, participants were selected, on the basis of a screening test, as being unskilled at solving syllogisms but as performing above guessing level. These participants underwent the training regime validated in the Pilot Studies. Following training, separate groups of participants carried out syllogistic tests with and without one of the following four secondary tasks: articulatory suppression, unattended pictures, spatial random generation, and verbal random generation. The pattern of results indicated that training had induced high demand strategies (often logic-equivalent), which loaded the central executive and to a lesser extent the phonological loop.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 1999


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