Adult humans show exceptional relational ability relative to other species. In this research, we trace the development of this ability in young children. We used a task widely used in comparative research—the relational match-to-sample task, which requires participants to notice and match the identity relation: for example, AA should match BB instead of CD. Despite the simplicity of this relation, children under 4 years of age failed to pass this test (Experiment 1), and their performance did not improve even with (...) initial feedback (Experiment 2). In Experiments 3 and 4, we found that two kinds of symbolic-linguistic experience can facilitate relational reasoning in young children. Our findings suggest that children learn to become adept analogical thinkers, and that language fosters this learning in at least two distinct ways. (shrink)
We investigated the understanding of causal systems categories—categories defined by common causal structure rather than by common domain content—among college students. We asked students who were either novices or experts in the physical sciences to sort descriptions of real-world phenomena that varied in their causal structure (e.g., negative feedback vs. causal chain) and in their content domain (e.g., economics vs. biology). Our hypothesis was that there would be a shift from domain-based sorting to causal sorting with increasing expertise in the (...) relevant domains. This prediction was borne out: The novice groups sorted primarily by domain and the expert group sorted by causal category. These results suggest that science training facilitates insight about causal structures. (shrink)
Detecting that two images are different is faster for highly dissimilar images than for highly similar images. Paradoxically, we showed that the reverse occurs when people are asked to describe how two images differ—that is, to state a difference between two images. Following structure-mapping theory, we propose that this disassociation arises from the multistage nature of the comparison process. Detecting that two images are different can be done in the initial (local-matching) stage, but only for pairs with low overlap; thus, (...) “different” responses are faster for low-similarity than for high-similarity pairs. In contrast, identifying a specific difference generally requires a full structural alignment of the two images, and this alignment process is faster for high-similarity pairs. We described four experiments that demonstrate this dissociation and show that the results can be simulated using the Structure-Mapping Engine. These results pose a significant challenge for nonstructural accounts of similarity comparison and suggest that structural alignment processes play a significant role in visual comparison. (shrink)
Metaphor has a double life. It can be described as a directional process in which a stable, familiar base domain provides inferential structure to a less clearly specified target. But metaphor is also described as a process of finding commonalities, an inherently symmetric process. In this second view, both concepts may be altered by the metaphorical comparison. Whereas most theories of metaphor capture one of these aspects, we offer a model based on structure-mapping that captures both sides of metaphor processing. (...) This predicts (a) an initial processing stage of symmetric alignment; and (b) a later directional phase in which inferences are projected to the target. To test these claims, we collected comprehensibility judgments for forward (e.g., “A rumor is a virus”) and reversed (“A virus is a rumor”) metaphors at early and late stages of processing, using a deadline procedure. We found an advantage for the forward direction late in processing, but no directional preference early in processing. Implications for metaphor theory are discussed. (shrink)
Human cognition is striking in its brilliance and its adaptability. How do we get that way? How do we move from the nearly helpless state of infants to the cognitive proficiency that characterizes adults? In this paper I argue, first, that analogical ability is the key factor in our prodigious capacity, and, second, that possession of a symbol system is crucial to the full expression of analogical ability.
This paper considers the past and future of Psychology within Cognitive Science. In the history section, I focus on three questions: (a) how has the position of Psychology evolved within Cognitive Science, relative to the other disciplines that make up Cognitive Science; (b) how have particular Cognitive Science areas within Psychology waxed or waned; and (c) what have we gained and lost. After discussing what’s happened since the late 1970s, when the Society and the journal began, I speculate about where (...) the field is going. (shrink)
Tenenbaum and Griffiths' paper attempts to subsume theories of similarity – including spatial models, featural models, and structure-mapping models – into a framework based on Bayesian generalization. But in so doing it misses significant phenomena of comparison. It would be more fruitful to examine how comparison processes suggest hypotheses than to try to derive similarity from Bayesian reasoning. [Shepard; Tenenbaum & Griffiths].
Halford, Wilson & Phillips argue that cognitive development is driven by increases in processing capacity. We suggest that changes in relational knowledge are as important or more so. We present evidence that 3-year-olds' analogical abilities are sharply improved by teaching them relational labels; over a 30-minute experimental session children gained approximately 2 years in effective performance. These results mandate caution interpreting age-related change as indicating maturational change, and call for a deeper consideration of the role of epistemological change in cognitive (...) development. (shrink)