Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

Living Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan

Abstract Reasoning

  • David HulacEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-56782-2_1431-2


Frontal Lobe Logical Reasoning Learning Disability Deductive Reasoning Abstract Reasoning 
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The neuropsychological construct of abstract reasoning refers to an individual’s ability to recognize patterns and relationships of theoretical or intangible ideas. Abstract reasoning is contrary to concrete reasoning whereby an individual recognizes patterns in information obtained through the immediate senses. When thinking abstractly, an individual must be able to identify rules and apply those rules to information without the aid of empirical help or personal experience.

Abstract reasoning is most closely related to rational thought as opposed to empirical thought. While using deductive reasoning, a purely rational thinker does not look to determine the accuracy of a premise, but seeks only to understand the relationship between the premises.

An example of deductive reasoning, which requires abstract reasoning, may go like this:
  1. 1.

    Premise 1: Egypt is located in South America.

  2. 2.

    Premise 2: The Sphinx lies in Egypt.

  3. 3.

    Conclusion: The Sphinx is located in South America.


Empirically and concretely, it is obvious that Egypt is not in South America, but in Africa. To complete the syllogism, however, the thinker must ignore the concrete distortion and instead focus on the two premises and understand if the conclusion logically flows.

Common measures of abstract intelligence include the similarities, picture concepts, and matrix reasoning subtests of the Wechsler scales. During a mental status exam, abstract reasoning is measured by asking a subject to describe the meanings of proverbs or to describe word similarities.

Abstract reasoning, most commonly understood as being a function of the frontal lobes of the brain, is a precursor for using and understanding language and mathematics. Individuals who struggle with abstract reasoning benefit when an instructor uses examples to make the concept more concrete or observable. Frequently, children with learning disabilities have difficulty with these abstract concepts, but achieve greater success in courses with more concrete subject matter such as social studies and science.


References and Readings

  1. Goldstein, G. (2004). Abstract reasoning and problem solving in adults. In M. Hersen (Ed.), Comprehensive handbook of psychological assessment, Intellectual and neuropsychological assessment (Vol. 1, pp. 293–308). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of School Psychology, College of Education and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of Northern ColoradoGreeleyUSA