Deductive reasoning and the brain

Charles M. Wharton*, Jordan Grafman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Although relatively few in number, cognitive neuroscience studies of reasoning have two general implications for cognitive theories of deduction. First, an important distinction among these theories is whether they focus on the effect of personally relevant content on the processes and representations underlying deductive reasoning. Evidence is reviewed indicating that there is a neuroanatomical basis for both content-independent and content-dependent theories of deduction. Clinical and neuroimaging studies appear to show that content-independent reasoning is mediated by the left hemisphere, whereas content-dependent reasoning is mediated by regions in the right hemisphere and the bilateral ventromedial frontal cortex. In normal subjects, reasoning is likely to be based on contributions from both hemispheres. Second, clinical evidence indicates that the visuospatial processes used in deductive reasoning are mediated by the posterior areas of the left hemisphere, and that verbal and visuospatial reasoning representations overlap at the neuroanatomical level. This finding weighs against the claims of mental-model theory that deduction involves a significant nonverbal component. Further investigation, particularly with contemporary neuroimaging methods, is needed to test these preliminary conclusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-59
Number of pages6
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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