Department of Educational Psychology


Date of this Version

May 1998


Published in Thinking and Reasoning 4:3 (1998), pp. 231–248. Copyright © 1998 Psychology Press Ltd. Used by permission.


Reasoning may be defined as a deliberate effort to coordinate inferences so as to reach justifiable conclusions. Thus defined, reasoning includes collaborative as well as individual forms of cognitive action. The purpose of the present study was to demonstrate a circumstance in which collaborative reasoning is qualitatively superior to individual reasoning. The selection task, a well known logical hypothesis-testing problem, was presented to 143 college undergraduates—32 individuals and 20 groups of 5 or 6 interacting peers. The correct (falsification) response pattern was selected by only 9% of the individuals but by 75% of the groups. The superior performance of the groups was due to collaborative reasoning rather than to imitation or peer pressure. Groups typically co-constructed a structure of arguments qualitatively more sophisticated than that generated by most individuals. The results support Piagetian and Habermasian views of peer interaction as a locus of rational social processes.