Preadolescents Solve Natural Syllogisms Proficiently

Cognitive Science 41 (S5):1031-1061 (2017)
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Abstract“Natural syllogisms” are arguments formally identifiable with categorical syllogisms that have an implicit universal affirmative premise retrieved from semantic memory rather than explicitly stated. Previous studies with adult participants (Politzer, 2011) have shown that the rate of success is remarkably high. Because their resolution requires only the use of a simple strategy (known as ecthesis in classic logic) and an operational use of the concept of inclusion (the recognition that an element that belongs to a subset must belong to the set but not vice versa), it was hypothesized that these syllogisms would be within the grasp of non‐adult participants, provided they have acquired the notion of deductive validity. Here, 11‐year‐old children were presented with natural syllogisms embedded in short dialogs. The first experiment showed that their performance was equivalent to adults' highest level of performance in standard experiments on syllogisms. The second experiment, while confirming children's proficiency in solving natural syllogisms, showed that they outperformed children who solved non‐natural matched syllogisms in the same experimental setting. The results are also in agreement with the argumentation theory of reasoning.



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Guy Politzer
Institut Jean Nicod

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