Three Types of Reasoning: Cognitive, Emotional, Behavioral

The theory of Logic-Based Consultation (LBC) and Logic-Based Therapy (LBT) makes a distinction between emotional reasoning, behavioral reasoning, and cognitive reasoning. The decisive factor in separating these three is the conclusion.

But before going any farther, I just want to make clear that, as a client,

(1) You don’t need to know this stuff in order to meet with a philosophical consultant, and (2) You probably won’t need to learn it as part of an LBC process.

As a client, you don’t need to know this stuff in order to meet with a philosophical consultant

Even so, it might be interesting to read about, and it might help clarify how and why individual philosophic consultation works. So without further ado . . .

Cognitive Reasoning

Cognitive reasoning is what you probably think of when you think of reasoning. It’s also what we tend to focus on in the study of logic. What happens in cognitive reasoning is that, on the basis of one or more beliefs, called “premises,” you infer another belief, called the “conclusion.” And this inferring of a conclusion from one or more premises is called, somewhat unfortunately, an “argument.” When the conclusion is a belief – or something else highly cognitive such as a thought, opinion, assertion, etc. – then the reasoning is cognitive.

The phrase ‘cognitive reasoning’ is really shorthand for reasoning that’s cognitive only.

In truth, all three types are cognitive. Emotional and behavioral reasoning have cognitive components as well as emotional or behavioral components (respectively). The phrase ‘cognitive reasoning’ is really shorthand for reasoning that’s cognitive only.

Emotional Reasoning

Emotional reasoning has been defined as “reasoning that can originate or sustain an emotion.” [1]

Its premises are cognitive. For example, the belief: “I failed that exam.” (The premises might also contain emotional or behavioral components, but they don’t need to.)

Its conclusion, however, will be both cognitive and emotional. For example, the conclusion may include (a) the belief “I am a failure,” (b) a strong negative “rating” of oneself, and (c) the psycho-physical affect of anger.

(Other posts will explore emotions and emotional reasoning in more detail.)

Behavioral Reasoning

Behavioral reasoning might be defined analogously as “reasoning that can originate or sustain a behavior.” It has also, perhaps more informatively, been defined as reasoning “that prescribes behavior and is linked to action.” [2]

As with emotional reasoning, behavioral reasoning’s premises are cognitive. (Again like emotional reasoning, the premises might also contain emotional or behavioral components, but they don’t need to.) For example, the belief that “I am going to fail this exam.”

The conclusion is both cognitive and behavioral, containing (a) a belief that prescribes some course of action, and (b) an impulse or motivation toward taking that action. For example, the behavioral prescription “I shouldn’t both to study,” along with an impulse or motivation not to study.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the prescribed action will in fact be taken.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the prescribed action will in fact be taken. Other behavioral prescriptions and impulses/motivations may override it. The same student might also believe that if she doesn’t study, she will forever worry that maybe she would have passed the exam after all, and this may lead her to study despite the prescription and impulse not to.

(Other posts will explore behavioral reasoning in more detail.)

Simple examples compared:

Emotional

“I failed that exam.” So, “I am a failure” + [negative rating of oneself] + [mental-physical experience of anger]

Behavioral

“I am going to fail this exam.” So, “I shouldn’t both to study for it” + [impulse/motivation not to study]

Cognitive only

“Socrates is a man.” So, “Socrates is mortal.” (I know, this is a silly example. But it’s a silly classic.)

By the way . . .

All the examples in this post have “hidden” or “suppressed” premises. I’ll discuss that important topic in other posts.

Works cited

[1] Elliot Cohen, Logic-Based Therapy and Everyday Emotions, p. 4.

[2] Elliot Cohen, Logic-Based Therapy and Everyday Emotions, p. 83.

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