Reasoning strategies

The role of working memory and verbal-spatial ability

Alison M. Bacon, Simon J. Handley, Ian Dennis, Stephen E. Newstead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence increasingly suggests individual differences in strategies adopted on reasoning tasks and that these are either verbal-propositional or visuospatial in nature. However, the cognitive foundations of these strategies remain uncertain. Experiment 1 examined the relationship between the use of working memory resources and strategy selection for syllogistic reasoning. Verbal and spatial strategy users did not differ on working memory capacity, but confirmatory factor analysis indicated that while verbal reasoners draw primarily on verbal working memory, spatial reasoners use both this and spatial resources. Experiment 2 investigated the relationship between strategies and verbal and spatial abilities. Although strategy groups were similar in overall ability, regression analysis showed that performance on a spatial ability measure (Vandenberg mental rotation task) predicted syllogistic reasoning performance, but only for spatial strategy users. The findings provide converging evidence that verbal and spatial strategies are underpinned by related differences in fundamental cognitive factors, drawing differentially on the subcomponents of working memory and on spatial ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1086
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Cognitive Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

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