How diagrams can support syllogistic reasoning: an experimental study

Yuri Sato, Koji Mineshima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the question of what makes diagrammatic representa- tions 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 success- fully 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 syllo- gistic reasoning crucially depends on the way they represent the relational information contained in categorical sentences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-455
Number of pages47
JournalJournal of Logic, Language and Information
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2015


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