Department of Educational Psychology


Date of this Version

March 1980


Published in The Journal of General Psychology, 103 (1980), pp. 251–262. Copyright © 1980 by The Journal Press and Heldref Publications, Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation, 1319 Eighteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036-1802. Used by permission.


According to a popular conception of reasoning, the thinker first mentally represents given information and then processes the resulting representations. It is commonly assumed, at least implicitly, that difficulty of the representation step is solely a function of facility with the form and content of the information to be represented, while difficulty of the processing step is solely a function of facility with the operation(s) necessary to meet the task requirements. Within this two-step information processing model, form/content variables and task requirements should thus have an additive effect on problem difficulty. To test this prediction, 72 male students in grades 7, 10, and college were presented with two tasks involving the same set of logical propositions. The effects of both form and content were found to be a function of task. These interactions seem to contradict the notion that form/content and task variables relate exclusively to different steps in reasoning. Theoretical implications of these results for the concepts of representation and process are discussed from information-processing, statistical, and structural perspectives.