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What Is Diagrammatic Reasoning?

A. Leverkuhn
A. Leverkuhn

Diagrammatic reasoning is a kind of reasoning that uses visuals as a vital part of the process. Some forms of diagrammatic reasoning combine visuals and text, but the term generally refers to reasoning that uses visuals as the primary vehicle of logical deduction or other reasoning processes. Alternatives to this style or method of reasoning include text-based or mathematic-based reasoning.

Some forms of diagrammatic reasoning are often understood as associative concepts. Charts, drawings, or other visuals connect related objects or ideas, helping viewers to pursue associations through visuals. These types of charts and graphics were extremely popular throughout many centuries preceding modern technology. For instance, elaborate drawings of geometrical forms often included small tags or banners with individual words written on them, in Latin or some other contemporary language. These shows key associations between classical objects or ideas, many of which were thought to have some innate power in the natural or metaphysical worlds.

Standardized tests frequently use diagrammatic reasoning at all age levels.
Standardized tests frequently use diagrammatic reasoning at all age levels.

One modern use of diagrammatic reasoning is in assessing the ways that students learn. Looking at reasoning through visuals is part of a response to the theory that individuals learn best in different ways. Experts in fields like psychology, education, and psychometrics often think about how the visual learning is different than other kinds of learning such as text-based learning. There are certain elements of cognitive function that can be better explored through visuals than through text, and visual based learning is often part of a professional's "tool kit" for research projects or other initiatives.

Many modern tests include elements of visual reasoning. These tests use abstract characters in associative patterns to assess the students’ competence in many key areas, including logical reasoning. These visuals may be also composed of maps or familiar layouts that students will rely on to form logical deductions, for example, to answer specific questions posed on the test. Visual based reasoning is common on standardized tests because it is an additional way to check for logical competence and other skills, rather than relying only on text.

In general, visual reasoning is becoming one of the frontiers for modern education and assessment. Modern educators are understanding that it’s important to consider alternative forms of assessment, where text-based learning was the standard in previous decades. The abstraction that diagrammatic reasoning provides can be extremely useful in creating more sophisticated tests for all sorts of particular uses in education and in the work world.

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    • Standardized tests frequently use diagrammatic reasoning at all age levels.
      By: Lisa F. Young
      Standardized tests frequently use diagrammatic reasoning at all age levels.