Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 229–232 | Cite as

Conversion and possibility in syllogistic reasoning

  • Louis S. Dickstein


Previous research on syllogistic reasoning has identified two bases of error on this task. One basis is the illicit conversion of universal affirmative and particular negative propositions. The second basis is the selection of propositional conclusions on indeterminate nonconversion syllogisms. The present study explores possible explanations for these phenomena. Data are presented that cast doubt on the explanation of conversion based upon the similarity between syllogistic premises and definitional statements. Even when the premises are modified so that they no longer resemble definitional statements, conversion still occurs. Bias toward symmetrical relations is discussed as an alternative explanation. Data are also presented to show that poor performance on indeterminate nonconversion syllogisms in large part reflects the failure of subjects to differentiate between possible and necessary conclusions. When this issue is clarified, performance significantly improves.


Definitional Statement Deductive Reasoning Additional Instruction Syllogistic Reasoning Bulletin Ofthe Psychonomic Society 
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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louis S. Dickstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Wellesley CollegeWellesley

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