Leaping across the Mental Canyon: Higher-Order Long-Distance Analogical Retrieval


Previous experiments have shown that a comparison of two written narratives highlights their shared relational structure, which in turn facilitates the retrieval of analogous narratives from the past (e.g., Gentner, Loewenstein, Thompson, & Forbus, 2009). However, analogical retrieval occurs across domains that appear more conceptually distant than merely different narratives, and the deepest analogies use matches in higher-order relational structure. The present study investigated whether comparison can facilitate analogical retrieval of higher-order relations across written narratives and abstract symbolic problems. Participants read stories which became retrieval targets after a delay, cued by either analogous stories or letter-strings. In Experiment 1 we replicated Gentner et al. who used narrative retrieval cues, and also found preliminary evidence for retrieval between narrative and symbolic domains. In Experiment 2 we found clear evidence that a comparison of analogous letter-string problems facilitated the retrieval of source stories with analogous higher-order relations. Experiment 3 replicated the retrieval results of Experiment 2 but with a longer delay between encoding and recall, and a greater number of distractor source stories. These experiments offer support for the schema induction account of analogical retrieval (Gentner et al., 2009) and show that the schemas abstracted from comparison of narratives can be transferred to non-semantic symbolic domains.

Shir Dekel
Shir Dekel

My research interests include decision-making and behavioural economics.