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Categorical reasoning from multiple diagrams

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Syllogistic reasoning from categorical premise pairs is generally taken to be a multistep process. Quantifiers ( all , no , some , some …not ) must be interpreted, representations constructed, and conclusions identified from these. Explanations of performance have been proposed in which errors may occur at any of these stages. The current paper contrasts (a) representation explanations of performance, in which errors occur because not all possible representations are constructed, and/or mistakes are made when doing so (e.g., mental models theory), and (b) conclusion identification explanations , in which errors occur even when information has been correctly and exhaustively represented, due to systematic difficulties that people may have when identifying particular conclusions, or in identifying conclusions in particular circumstances. Three experiments are reported, in which people identified valid conclusions from diagrams analogous to Euler circles, so that the first two stages of reasoning from premise pairs were effectively removed. Despite this, several phenomena associated with reasoning from premise pairs persisted, and it is suggested that whereas representation explanations may account for some of these phenomena, conclusion identification explanations, which have never previously been considered, are required for others.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Essex Colchester UK

Publication date: February 1, 2005


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