Individual differences in deductive reasoning

Stephen E. Newstead*, Simon J. Handley, Clare Harley, Helen Wright, Daniel Farrelly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)


Three studies are reported, which examined individual differences in deductive reasoning as a function of intellectual ability and thinking style. Intellectual ability was a good predictor of logical performance on syllogisms, especially where there was a conflict between logic and believability. However, in the first two experiments there was no link between ability and performance on indicative selection tasks, in sharp contrast to previous research. This correlation did, however, return in the final study. Our data are consistent with the claim that the correlation with logical accuracy on abstract selection tasks is found primarily with participants of relatively high ability. At lower levels, pragmatically cued responses are given but those of slightly higher ability divorce the rule from the scenario and respond consistently (though incorrectly) across problems. Self-report questionnaires were generally poor predictors of performance, but a measure of the ability to generate alternative representations proved an excellent predictor. These results are consistent with a mental models approach to reasoning and also have implications for the debate about human rationality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-60
Number of pages28
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A: Human Experimental Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


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