Analogy making

This area of research involves the development of analogy-making abilities in children and the factors that contribute to that development.  A number of our recent contributions (Thibaut, French & Vezneva, 2008, 2009, 2010a, b) support the hypothesis that executive functions are at the heart of analogy-making.  This approach is in distinct contrast to the traditional way of studying analogy-making (Gentner, 1983; Goswami & Brown, 1990) in which the development of world knowledge plays the key role.  We believe that understanding an analogy fundamentally involves exploring a multidimensional space in which the correct solution (i.e., the best analogy) is in competition with other potential, albeit generally less salient, solutions.  Finding this best analogy, therefore, requires the inhibition of other potential (but incorrect) solutions, in particular, solutions that share perceptual features with the (correct) target solution.  In addition, cognitive flexibility is needed to shift focus from an initially appealing perceptual solution to a better (analogical) solution.  In the classic A:B::C:D analogy paradigm, we have shown that the type, number, and semantic character of distractor items strongly affects speed and accuracy performance on finding the correct solution.  A recent three-year grant (2010-2013) from the French National Research Agency (ANR) will allow us to continue to test our “solution-space exploration” hypothesis  using reaction-time and eye-tracking (TOBII) measurements.  This hypothesis will be the basis of a new connectionist model of analogy-making that we are currently in the process of developing.