How Diagrams Can Support Syllogistic Reasoning: An Experimental Study

Yuri Sato, Koji Mineshima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-455
Number of pages47
JournalJournal of Logic, Language and Information
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Dec 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Categorical syllogism
  • Efficacy of diagrams
  • External representation
  • Human experimentation
  • Human reasoning
  • Logic and cognition
  • Quantification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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