What Is Visual Reasoning?

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  • Written By: Emily Daw
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 13 March 2018
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Visual reasoning is the process of analyzing visual information and being able to solve problems based upon it. A person's visual reasoning abilities are related to overall intelligence. It is a component of nonverbal intelligence, meaning that a person does not have to use language in order to solve visual problems.

Tests that measure Intelligence Quotient (IQ) nearly always contain questions that require this type of reasoning. These questions may require the test taker to identify and manipulate visual patterns. They may show a set of shapes and ask the test taker to identify what shapes should come next in the pattern. Another type of question might show a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional object and ask the person to identify what the object might look like from another angle. Answering this question requires both visual and spacial reasoning skills.

Visual reasoning skills are key in many real-life contexts as well. For instance, interpreting information found in charts and graphs usually requires a combination of verbal, mathematical and visual analysis. The person looking at the chart must identify what type of information is being shown — usually by reading the title and labels — and then analyze the information using mathematical and visual skills. Reading a map requires understanding the relationship of visual information to its real-world context. Visual reasoning abilities also help students learn new concepts in math, physics and other skills.


A number of career paths require a high level of visual reasoning. Many jobs in architecture, engineering and design involve working with computer models of three-dimensional objects, which the user must be able to manipulate in his or her mind as well as on the computer screen. Having a good visual memory as well as reasoning abilities helps professionals in these fields recall and process various types of design models.

A person can improve his or her visual reasoning skills through various means. Simply paying attention to visual information and making a conscious effort to interpret it can help a person learn to reason more easily. People who have very strong verbal abilities may also find it helpful to talk through visual pattern problems, such as those found in IQ tests.


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