A Cognitive Analysis of Solutions for Verbal, Informal, and Formal-Deductive Reasoning Problems

Author(s):
Enright, Mary K.; Tucker, Carol B.; Katz, Irvin R.
Publication Year:
1995
Report Number:
RR-95-06
GREB-90-04P
Source:
Document Type:
Subject/Key Words:
Analytical ability tests cognitive structures comparative analysis item types reasoning ability

Abstract

A previous study of new item types for the analytical measure of the GRE General Test found that the items loaded on three of four separable factors were labeled verbal reasoning, informal reasoning, formal-deductive reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. The present study examined the issue of how processing differed for these item types in the context of a problem-space framework. Protocols of examinees solving a small set of problems aloud were collected. These protocols were examined with respect to two phases of the problem- solving process: problem representation and problem solution. For formal-deductive items, all the information necessary to solve the problem was provided in the problem statement. The representation of formal-deductive items involved the use of meaning- reduced tokens and spatial diagrams. The units involved in the representation of informal reasoning and verbal reasoning item types included meaningful propositions and meaning-emphasizing paraphrases. Reference to common background knowledge occurred. The analysis of the problem-solution phase focused on the processes of evaluation (judgments of the correctness of an option) and justification (statements of an argument or of evidence for why an option was or was not correct). First, the order of these processes was found to differ for formal-deductive items and other item types. Secondly, item solutions varied in terms of the kinds of justifications that were offered by the examinees for accepting or rejecting options. These results illustrate how the addition of some item types to the GRE analytical measure will expand the variety of reasoning skills assessed. Implications of these results for cognitive models of reasoning are also discussed.

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