Annu Rev Psychol. 2001:52:223-47. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.223.


Reasoning processes allow the human cognitive system to go beyond the information readily available in the environment. This review focuses on the processes of human thinking, including deductive reasoning, induction, mental simulation, and analogy. We survey recent trends across several areas, including categorization, mental models, cognitive development, and decision making. Our chief organizing principle is the contrast between traditional approaches that focus on abstract logical reasoning and a number of current approaches that posit domain-specific, knowledge-intensive cognition. We suggest that some instances of domain-specific cognition result from domain-general processes operating on domain-specific representations. Another theme is the link between reasoning and learning. We suggest that learning typically occurs as a byproduct of reasoning, rather than as an end in itself.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Psychological Theory
  • Thinking / physiology*