The facilitating effect of the hierarchical organisation of concepts to the syllogistic reasoning


Hillar Saul


Tallinn University



Abstract. Although intuitively tenable the impact of specific school-learned skills on syllogistic reasoning have so far received little attention. In this study recent theoretical propositions about the facilitating influence of the explicit hierarchical organisation of concepts on the syllogistic reasoning were empirically tested. Pupils in grades 10, 11, and 12 and university students were presented with two logically identical sets of syllogisms with two kinds of fantasy content: hierarchical (concerning hypothetical classification of animals from another planet) and non-hierarchical (concerning behaviour of human-like creatures). It was found that, in all age groups, the indeterminate syllogisms with the hierarchical content were solved significantly more accurately as compared to the non-hierarchical condition, while there were no differences in correct answers for determinate syllogisms. The results were interpreted in line with earlier suggestions that the school-acquired ability to envision asymmetric relations between the terms helps to detect the invalidity of indeterminate syllogisms.


Keywords: reasoning, syllogisms, pragmatic effects, concepts