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The Temporal Consistency of the Effects of Structure and Content on Spatial Deductive Reasoning

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The general aim of this study is to elucidate the temporal consistency of the effects of the structure and content of an argument on spatial deductive reasoning. We will investigate the effects of these factors mainly by comparing the opposing predictions made by the Formal Rules theory and the Mental Models theory of spatial deductive reasoning. Thirty-seven subjects solved 48 spatial reasoning problems which varied by their logical structure, that is, by the order of the entities in the premise sets, and their geometrical content, that is, by the number of dimensions 2D, 3D, orientations horizontal, vertical, and directions rightleft, bottomtop specified in the premise sets. For half of the problems, subjects were to deduce the relative location of an object pair EB in two dimensions. For the other half, subjects were to deduce the relative location of an other object pair ED in either one dimension, for the 2D condition, or in three dimensions for the 3D condition. Questions pertaining to each dimension were asked consecutively thus requiring deductions over time but within the bounds of working memory. We varied the symbolic representation of the problems according to their symbolic structure using either sentences or diagrams to represent the relations among entities, and their symbolic content using either nouns or images to represent the entities. We addressed temporal consistency by measuring the effects of the above variables on the responses and the response times obtained for the consecutive questions. Spatial deductions were reliably easier to make from diagrams than from sentences, thus confirming the Mental Models theory. However, diagrams facilitated spatial reasoning only during the initial stage of the process of deduction.

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  • Psychology

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