Cognitive Reasoning

What is cognitive reasoning, and can it be improved upon?

what is reasoning

Cognitive Reasoning is the cognitive ability of breaking information into smaller and more understandable components. It is used to help understand complex information presented. Through reasoning, we can think abstractly, plan realistically, and solve complex problems. Reasoning is an important part of problem-solving and executive function.



This cognitive skill can be associated with the ability to analyze information thoughtfully, understand it clearly, ignore unimportant stimuli or details in the process, and think ahead to the next steps after receiving that information.

There are two main types of reasoning

Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning is the ability to see relationships between particular instances to form a general conclusion. Here are a few examples of this:

  • Every spring, I get congestion and a cough. I’m probably allergic to pollen.
  • I leave for work at 8:00 every day, and I’m always on time. I’ll be on time if I leave for work at 8:00 today.
  • The train tracks lead to the north. The train that is passing must be heading north.

Deductive Reasoning

This type of reasoning involves starting with a general premise or statement and then drawing specific conclusions based on that premise. Deductive reasoning is often used in mathematics and formal logic. Some examples would be: 


  1. All birds lay eggs. Ostriches are birds. Therefore, ostriches lay eggs. 
  2. All numbers ending with 0 are divisible by 10. So 520 is divisible by 10.
  3. It’s unsafe to drive in the dark without headlights. It’s dark right now, so I should use my headlights while driving.


Within deductive reasoning, there are three subcategories:

This reasoning is associated with conditions. It’s essentially the idea, “If this happens, then that happens.” For example: Every time my phone dings, it means I’ve received a text. It just made a ding, so I know I received a text.

This type of reasoning is based on categorizing. For example: All vertebrates have kidneys. Bears are vertebrates, so they have kidneys.

This type of reasoning involves linear logic. For example: I am older than Pierce, and he’s older than Tyrone. So I am older than Tyrone.

Establishing a reasoning strategy

Below are the necessary steps for establishing a reasoning (hypothetical-deductive) strategy:


1. Problem analysis and definition of the goal to be achieved

2. Choice of strategy – determining the action plan to solve the problem

    • If the final goal is too difficult to reach in a single step, intermediate sub goals are defined, making it easier to progress towards the solution
    • Considering available means to reach the goal, as well as possible constraints

3. Selection of a solution from among several possibilities

4. Checking the validity of the achieved result in comparison to the initial analysis

Other cognitive skills used for reasoning

Attention: In order to solve a problem it is necessary to focus attention on all available information and to then determine the most relevant pieces. Attention also allows us to ignore any interferences that might disturb the reasoning process. It can also help us disregard automatic answers that have been generated by the brain but that are inadequate for the situation.
Example: Waiting at a STOP sign when a traffic cop is signaling us to move on.


Memory: Long-term memory is particularly involved in reasoning as we use ready-made action plans stored in our memory to solve new problems. Working memory also intervenes and helps us to consciously keep essential elements of the problem in mind and work on the various available elements, such as a series of numbers during mental calculation.


Mental imaging: The ability to mentally create an image also greatly contributes to an effective reasoning process. It allows us to create, imagine, or anticipate future chess moves and to keep information in mind, to compare situations, to mentally rotate objects in order to decide, for instance, whether a wardrobe fits into a certain space.

Where does reasoning occur in the brain?

It primarily occurs in the prefrontal cortex within the frontal lobe. Different areas of the brain can also be involved, depending on the complexity of the task. Research has suggested that the right hemisphere may be involved with recalling familiar scenarios when using reason and the left hemisphere may deal with abstract reasoning surrounding unfamiliar information.

How reasoning becomes impaired

The ability to use reason may become impaired by cognitive conditions, for example, in individuals with schizophrenia. 


Humans naturally make generalizations through reasoning. However, people with schizophrenia may have impaired reasoning, making them draw conclusions without sufficient evidence to support their assumptions. For example, a patient may think, “A woman with dark hair was rude to me, so all women with dark hair are rude.” This thought could occur regardless of women with dark hair who have a history of being kind to the individual.

Reasoning can also become impaired due to stroke, TBI, dementia, or a delay in learning language skills.

Can reasoning be improved through cognitive therapy?

All cognitive skills, including executive functions such as reasoning, can be trained and may experience improvement. Check out a few of our exercises that may improve reasoning ability.

Basketball in NY



Deductive Reasoning 

The Towers of Hanoi


Writing in the Stars

Deductive Reasoning

Neuroplasticity is the foundation of how cognitive therapy is conducted.  Neuroplasticity is the theory of the malleability of the brain and its neural connections. The concept is that the neurons in the brain can be strengthened by challenging and engaging them. Just like going to the gym to get physically strong, the brain’s reasoning abilities may become stronger by frequently training skills involved with reasoning. 


HappyNeuron was founded by neuroscience experts who wanted to create a better way to deliver personalized cognitive therapy.  Our tool aims to help clinicians revolutionize how they conduct cognitive rehabilitation or remediation sessions. With our adaptable executive function exercises, you can customize each exercise to meet the executive function deficits your patient is exhibiting.  The program then stores all of the information for you. This way, you can track and see your patient’s progress.


The key to improving cognitive skills is adequate and consistent training. HappyNeuron‘s training tools may help both individuals and professionals optimize this function.

Quick Summary:

  • Reasoning refers to the ability to understand complex situations or concepts. It involves breaking information into smaller and more understandable components, thereby understanding the complex information presented.
  • It is an executive function skill and may be improved by cognitive therapy. 
  • There are multiple types of Reasoning: Inductive, Deductive, Conditioned, Categorical, Linear

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