Effects of Dyslexia on Problem Solving - Strategies and Interventions for Syllogistic Reasoning

Rawlins, Kay (2021) Effects of Dyslexia on Problem Solving - Strategies and Interventions for Syllogistic Reasoning. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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When solving syllogisms, people can adopt either a spatial strategy, where spatial representations are used to illustrate relations between terms, or a verbal strategy where the problem is represented in terms of letters and relational rules (Ford, 1995). People with dyslexia tend to adopt a spatial strategy when solving syllogisms while people without dyslexia tend to adopt a verbal strategy (Bacon, Handley & McDonald, 2007). But how fixed are these strategic approaches? This thesis examines whether training that focuses on verbal or spatial representations of the problems affected performance for people with and without dyslexia, and whether the effectiveness of this training varied according to whether the syllogisms were categorised as those easiest to solve for verbal reasoners, easiest for spatial reasoners, and equally difficult for both types of reasoners, based on Ford’s (1995) results. Five studies were conducted to compare the performance of people with dyslexia to people without dyslexia to examine 1) individual differences in spontaneous reasoning strategies, 2) effects of figure and belief bias, 3) performance after being taught a verbal strategy, 4) performance after being taught a spatial strategy, and 5) the pattern of eye movements to observe where attention is focused while solving the syllogisms. The results supported previous research that people do tend to reason spontaneously with a verbal or spatial strategy but failed to find evidence of a difference between participants with dyslexia and participants without dyslexia. The studies further showed that participants with dyslexia are affected by the figure of the syllogism (the placement of the middle term in relation to the end terms). Training was effective in encouraging all participants to switch solution strategies, but this appears independent of dyslexic status. Teaching a spatial strategy impacted learning but did not promote problem solving and was not particularly helpful for the participants with dyslexia. It appears to make problems that are easier with a verbal strategy harder to solve. Examination of eye movements revealed that the focus of attention during problem solving was more on the terms in the premises than the quantifiers. The pattern of eye fixations was the same regardless of the figure or problem type. There was an interaction between problem type x AOI, indicating a longer processing time for premise 2 for problems that are difficult to solve with a verbal or spatial strategy. Overall, the studies suggest that there is a burden on participants with dyslexia in problem solving that is not alleviated by training in either spatial or verbal strategies, but that particular problems might be easier or harder to solve according to whether a spatial or verbal strategy is spontaneously used by the participant, and that these differences in problem type are marked by eye fixation patterns during problem solving.

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Thesis (PhD)
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02 Mar 2021 18:05
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16 Jun 2021 12:06