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Abstract Reasoning: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 Example & Definition…
  • 1:17 Difference Between…
  • 2:09 Examples of Abstract Reasoning
  • 2:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Abstract reasoning involves flexible thinking, creativity, judgment, and logical problem solving. Learn more about abstract reasoning and how it differs from concrete reasoning from examples, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Example and Definition of Abstract Reasoning

Look at the sequences shown here:

Abstract reasoning pattern

Can you figure out what image comes next in the sequence? There is an obvious pattern here that makes it easier for you to predict what the next image will be. You may have noticed that after the orange arrow, the sequence starts over again with the yellow square. This means that the next image in the sequence should be a blue diamond. Did you come up with the correct answer? If so, you have good abstract reasoning skills.

So, what do we mean by 'abstract reasoning'? Abstract reasoning refers to the ability to analyze information, detect patterns and relationships, and solve problems on a complex, intangible level.

Abstract reasoning skills include:

  • Being able to formulate theories about the nature of objects and ideas
  • Being able to understand the multiple meanings that underlie an event, statement, or object. For example, realizing that the Liberty Bell is not just a piece of American history, but it is also a symbol of freedom
  • Being able to identify the relationship between verbal and nonverbal ideas
  • Being able to detect underlying patterns and relationships between events, ideas, and objects. For example, understanding the relationship between slavery and the Civil War

Difference Between Abstract and Concrete Reasoning

Abstract reasoning is often compared to concrete reasoning, which involves looking at things on the surface level and using this information to solve problems in their most literal sense. Concrete thinkers reason in terms of facts, events, objects, and specific examples. Abstract thinkers move away from these specific things and reason in terms of generalizations, ideas, and deeper meanings.

Suppose you were introduced to Macy and George, a married couple. An example of concrete reasoning is knowing that Macy and George have been married for 12 years. Abstract reasoning would be thinking about the concept of marriage in general.

Another example of concrete reasoning would be knowing that Macy and George got married in a Catholic church. Abstract reasoning would be thinking about the significance of marriage in a Catholic church.

Examples of Abstract Reasoning

Other examples of abstract reasoning include:

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