Fuzzy trace theory explains why children do not have to use rules of logic or premise information to infer transitive relationships. Instead, memory of the premises and performance on transitivity tasks is explained by a verbatim ability and a gist ability. Until recently, the processes involved in transitive reasoning and memory of the premises were studied by comparing mean performance in fixed-age groups. In this study, an individual-difference model of fuzzy trace theory for transitive reasoning was formulated and tested on a sample (N = 409) of 4- to 13-year-old children. Tasks were used which differed with respect to presentation ordering and position ordering. From this individual- difference model expectations could be derived about the individual performance on memory and transitivity test-pairs. The multilevel latent class model was used to fit the formalized individual-difference fuzzy trace theory to the sample data. The model was shown to fit the data to a large extent. The results showed that verbatim ability and gist ability drove the activation of verbatim and gist traces, respectively, and that children used combinations of these traces to solve memory tasks (testing memory of the premises) and transitivity tasks. Task format had a stronger effect on transitivity task performance than on memory of the premises. Development of gist ability was found to be faster than development of verbatim ability. Another important finding was that some children remembered the premise information correctly but were not able to infer the transitive relationship, even though the premises provided all the necessary information. This contradicts Trabasso’s linear ordering theory which posits that memory of the premises is sufficient to infer transitive relationships.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2006.08.001, hdl.handle.net/1765/11580
Developmental Review
Department of Psychology

Bouwmeester, S., Vermunt, J., & Sijtsma, K. (2007). Development and individual differences in transitive reasoning: A fuzzy trace theory approach. Developmental Review, 27(1), 41–74. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2006.08.001