Conditional reasoning with false premises facilitates the transition between familiar and abstract reasoning

Henry Markovits, Hugues Lortie-Forgues

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract reasoning is critical for science and mathematics, but is very difficult. In 3 studies, the hypothesis that alternatives generation required for conditional reasoning with false premises facilitates abstract reasoning is examined. Study 1 (n = 372) found that reasoning with false premises improved abstract reasoning in 12- to 15-year-olds. Study 2 (n = 366) found a positive effect of simply generating alternatives, but only in 19-year-olds. Study 3 (n = 92) found that 9- to 11-year-olds were able to respond logically with false premises, whereas no such ability was observed in 6- to 7-year-olds. Reasoning with false premises was found to improve reasoning with semiabstract premises in the older children. These results support the idea that alternatives generation with false premises facilitates abstract reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)646-60
Number of pages15
JournalChild Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2011


  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Concept Formation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logic
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Problem Solving
  • Psychology, Child
  • Semantics
  • Verbal Learning
  • Young Adult

Cite this