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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:

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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:

  • Being able to recognize patterns in shapes
  • Being able to think about the concept of numbers in general
  • Understanding the significance of the 22nd Amendment
  • Understanding the relationship between distance and time
  • Formulating theories about the nature of the human existence

Lesson Summary

People who possess abstract reasoning skills are able to ask questions, examine a situation from multiple perspectives, find connections among concepts, and evaluate ideas to examine the world.

This is in contrast to concrete reasoning, which is the ability to analyze and evaluate information in its most literal sense. An example of abstract reasoning is formulating theories about the nature of time. An example of concrete reasoning is knowing that it is 10:30 PM.

Learning Outcomes

After reviewing this lesson, you should have the ability to:

  • Describe abstract reasoning skills
  • Distinguish between abstract reasoning and concrete reasoning
  • Identify examples of abstract reasoning

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