A theory of analogy must describe how the meaning of an analogy is derived from the meanings of its parts. In the structure‐mapping theory, the interpretation rules are characterized as implicit rules for mapping knowledge about a base domain into a target domain. Two important features of the theory are (a) the rules depend only on syntactic properties of the knowledge representation, and not on the specific content of the domains; and (b) the theoretical framework allows analogies to be distinguished (...) cleanly from literal similarity statements, applications of abstractions, and other kinds of comparisons.Two mapping principles are described: (a) Relations between objects, rather than attributes of objects, are mapped from base to target; and (b) The particular relations mapped are determined by systematicity, as defined by the existence of higher‐order relations. (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.
We present a model of similarity‐based retrieval that attempts to capture three seemingly contradictory psychological phenomena: (a) structural commonalities are weighed more heavily than surface commonalities in similarity judgments for items in working memory; (b) in retrieval, superficial similarity is more important than structural similarity; and yet (c) purely structural (analogical) remindings e sometimes experienced. Our model, MAC/FAC, explains these phenomena in terms of a two‐stage process. The first stage uses a computationally cheap, non‐structural matcher to filter candidate long‐term memory (...) items. It uses content vectors, a redundant encoding of structured representations whose dot product estimates how well the corresponding structural representations will match. The second stage uses SME (structure‐mapping engine) to compute structural matches on the handful of items found by the first stage. We show the utility of the MAC/FAC model through a series of computational experiments: (a) We demonstrate that MAC/FAC can model patterns of access found in psychological data; (b) we argue via sensitivity analyses that these simulation results rely on the theory; and (c) we compare the performance of MAC/FAC with ARCS, an alternate model of similarity‐based retrieval, and demonstrate that MAC/FAC explains the data better than ARCS. Finally, we discuss limitations and possible extensions of the model, relationships with other recent retrieval models, and place MAC/FAC in the context of other recent work on the nature of similarity. (shrink)
This research investigates the development of analogy: In particular, we wish to study the development of systematicity in analogy. Systematicity refers to the mapping of systems of mutually constraining relations, such as causal chains or chains of implication. A preference for systematic mappings is a central aspect of analogical processing in adults (Gentner, 1980, 1983). This research asks two questions: Does systematicity make analogical mapping easier? And, if so, when, developmentally, do children become able to utilize systematicity?Children aged 5–7 and (...) 8–10 acted out stories with toy characters. Then they were asked to act out the same stories with new characters. Two variables were manipulated: systematicity, or the degree of explicit causal structure in the original stories, and the transparency of the object‐mappings. Transparency was manipulated by varying the similarity between the original characters and the corresponding new characters: it was included in order to vary the difficulty of the transfer task. If children can utilize systematicity, then their transfer accuracy should be greater for systematic stories.The results show: (1) As expected, transparency strongly influenced transfer accuracy (for both age groups, transfer accuracy dropped sharply as the object correspondences became less transparent); and (2) for the older group, there was also a strong effect of systematicity and an interaction between the two variables. Given a systematic story, 9‐year‐olds could transfer it accurately regardless of the transparency of the object correspondence. (shrink)
Núñez et al (2019) argue (1) that the field of Cognitive Science has failed, in that it has not arrived at a cohesive theory, and (2) that this is contrary to the intentions of the founders. Their survey of publication and citation patterns bears out the lack of a cohesive theory and also provides corroboration for (3) the concern that the field is becoming unbalanced, with psychology overweighted (Gentner, 2010). I will argue against points (1) and (2), but agree with (...) point (3). My central claim is that cognitive science was never meant to have one unified theoretical framework, nor should it have. (shrink)
A central question in human development is how young children gain knowledge so fast. We propose that analogical generalization drives much of this early learning and allows children to generate new abstractions from experience. In this paper, we review evidence for analogical generalization in both children and adults. We discuss how analogical processes interact with the child's changing knowledge base to predict the course of learning, from conservative to domain-general understanding. This line of research leads to challenges to existing assumptions (...) about learning. It shows that it is not enough to consider the distribution of examples given to learners; one must consider the processes learners are applying; contrary to the general assumption, maximizing variability is not always the best route for maximizing generalization and transfer. (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)
Analogy and similarity are central phenomena in human cognition, involved in processes ranging from visual perception to conceptual change. To capture this centrality requires that a model of comparison must be able to integrate with other processes and handle the size and complexity of the representations required by the tasks being modeled. This paper describes extensions to Structure-Mapping Engine since its inception in 1986 that have increased its scope of operation. We first review the basic SME algorithm, describe psychological evidence (...) for SME as a process model, and summarize its role in simulating similarity-based retrieval and generalization. Then we describe five techniques now incorporated into the SME that have enabled it to tackle large-scale modeling tasks: Greedy merging rapidly constructs one or more best interpretations of a match in polynomial time: O); Incremental operation enables mappings to be extended as new information is retrieved or derived about the base or target, to model situations where information in a task is updated over time; Ubiquitous predicates model the varying degrees to which items may suggest alignment; Structural evaluation of analogical inferences models aspects of plausibility judgments; Match filters enable large-scale task models to communicate constraints to SME to influence the mapping process. We illustrate via examples from published studies how these enable it to capture a broader range of psychological phenomena than before. (shrink)
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)
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)
We tested whether analogical training could help children learn a key principle of elementary engineering—namely, the use of a diagonal brace to stabilize a structure. The context for this learning was a construction activity at the Chicago Children's Museum, in which children and their families build a model skyscraper together. The results indicate that even a single brief analogical comparison can confer insight. The results also reveal conditions that support analogical learning.
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)
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)
We present five experiments and simulation studies to establish late analogical abstraction as a new psychological phenomenon: Schema abstraction from analogical examples can revive otherwise inert knowledge. We find that comparing two analogous examples of negotiations at recall time promotes retrieving analogical matches stored in memory—a notoriously elusive effect. Another innovation in this research is that we show parallel effects for real‐life autobiographical memory (Experiments 1–3) and for a controlled memory set (Experiments 4 and 5). Simulation studies show that a (...) unified model based on schema abstraction can capture backward (retrieval) effects as well as forward (transfer) effects. (shrink)
We agree with Penn et al. that our human cognitive superiority derives from our exceptional relational ability. We far exceed other species in our ability to grasp analogies and to combine relations into higher-order structures (Gentner 2003). However, we argue here that possession of an elaborated symbol system is necessary to make our relational capacity operational.
Theory‐of‐mind (ToM) is an integral part of social cognition, but how it develops remains a critical question. There is evidence that children can gain insight into ToM through experience, including language training and explanatory interactions. But this still leaves open the question of how children gain these insights—what processes drive this learning? We propose that analogical comparison is a key mechanism in the development of ToM. In Experiment 1, children were shown true‐ and false‐belief scenarios and prompted to engage in (...) multiple comparisons (e.g., belief vs. world). In Experiments 2a, 2b, and 3, children saw a series of true‐ and false‐belief events, varying in order and in their alignability. Across these experiments, we found that providing support for comparing true‐ and false‐belief scenarios led to increased performance on false‐belief tests. These findings show that analogical comparison can support ToM learning. (shrink)
Visual comparison is a key process in everyday learning and reasoning. Recent research has discovered the spatial alignment principle, based on the broader framework of structure‐mapping theory in comparison. According to the spatial alignment principle, visual comparison is more efficient when the figures being compared are arranged in direct placement—that is, juxtaposed with parallel structural axes. In this placement, (1) the intended relational correspondences are readily apparent, and (2) the influence of potential competing correspondences is minimized. There is evidence for (...) the spatial alignment principle in adults’ visual comparison (Matlen et al., 2020). Here, we test whether it holds for children. Six‐ and eight‐year‐old children performed a same‐different task over visual pairs. The results indicated that direct placement led to faster and more accurate comparison, both for concrete same‐different matches (matches of both objects and relations) and for purely relational matches—evidence that the same structural alignment process holds for visual comparison in 6‐ and 8‐year‐olds as in adults. These findings have implications for learning and education. (shrink)
Analogies are partial similarities between different situations that support further inferences. Specifically, analogy is a kind of similarity in which the same system of relations holds across different objects. Analogies thus capture parallels across different situations.
Prepositions name spatial relationships. But they are also used to convey abstract, non-spatial relationships —raising the question of how the abstract uses relate to the concrete spatial uses. Despite considerable success in delineating these relationships, no general account exists for the two most frequently extended prepositions: in and on. We test the proposal that what is preserved in abstract uses of these prepositions is the relative degree of control between the located object and the reference object. Across four experiments, we (...) find a continuum of greater figure control for on and greater ground control for in. These findings bear on accounts of semantic structure and language change, as well as on second language instruction. (shrink)