Deductive Thinking

How We Reason
  • Philip N. Johnson-Laird


The ability to reason lies at the heart of human mentality: Homo sapiens is a rational creature. There are many occasions in life that call for logical skill, and they include the evaluation of alternative courses of action; the determination of the consequences of assumptions and hypotheses; the interpretation of instructions, rules, and regulations; the pursuit of arguments and negotiations; the weighing of evidence; the solution of intellectual problems; and, above all, the governance of society and the development of science, culture, and technology. The importance of reasoning is refiected in the investment of resources in attempts to improve the ability of adults and children. These efforts inc1ude a project to raise the intelligence of the entire population of Venezuela, making use of the combined expertise of Harvard University; Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, Inc.; and many other institutions (see Nickerson, 1980). There are also numerous school projects in the United States and elsewhere dedicated to the teaching of reasoning (e.g., Lipman, 1980; Whimbey & Lochhead, 1980; Feuerstein, Rand, Hoffman, & Miller, 1980; Sternberg, 1980a), as well as a variety ofbooks, educational materials, and instructional aids for improving inferential performance in solving problems (e.g., Covington, Crutchfield, Davis, & Olton, 1972; Wickelgren, 1974; Hutchinson, 1980). There is in comparison only a small amount of research into the nature of the processes that these projects are designed to enhance. If more were known about the psychology of reasoning, pedagogical procedures might be improved, and in some cases, they might even be abandoned as worthless.


Mental Model Propositional Calculus Selection Task Natural Deduction Syllogistic Reasoning 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip N. Johnson-Laird
    • 1
  1. 1.Medical Research Council Applied Psychology UnitCambridgeEngland

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