How Diagrams Can Support Syllogistic Reasoning: An Experimental Study

Journal of Logic, Language and Information 24 (4):409-455 (2015)
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Abstract

This paper explores the question of what makes diagrammatic representations effective for human logical reasoning, focusing on how Euler diagrams support syllogistic reasoning. It is widely held that diagrammatic representations aid intuitive understanding of logical reasoning. In the psychological literature, however, it is still controversial whether and how Euler diagrams can aid untrained people to successfully conduct logical reasoning such as set-theoretic and syllogistic reasoning. To challenge the negative view, we build on the findings of modern diagrammatic logic and introduce an Euler-style diagrammatic representation system that is designed to avoid problems inherent to a traditional version of Euler diagrams. It is hypothesized that Euler diagrams are effective not only in interpreting sentential premises but also in reasoning about semantic structures implicit in given sentences. To test the hypothesis, we compared Euler diagrams with other types of diagrams having different syntactic or semantic properties. Experiment compared the difference in performance between syllogistic reasoning with Euler diagrams and Venn diagrams. Additional analysis examined the case of a linear variant of Euler diagrams, in which set-relationships are represented by one-dimensional lines. The experimental results provide evidence supporting our hypothesis. It is argued that the efficacy of diagrams in supporting syllogistic reasoning crucially depends on the way they represent the relational information contained in categorical sentences.

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Koji Mineshima
Keio University

References found in this work

The Development of Logic.William Kneale & Martha Kneale - 1962 - Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. Edited by Martha Kneale.
Generalized quantifiers and natural language.John Barwise & Robin Cooper - 1981 - Linguistics and Philosophy 4 (2):159--219.
The development of logic.W. C. Kneale - 1962 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Martha Kneale.

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