Goldstone, R. L. (1994). Similarity, Interactive Activation, and Mapping. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20, 3- 28.
The question of “what makes things seem similar?” is important both for the pivotal role of similarity in theories of cognition and for an intrinsic interest in how people make comparisons. Similarity frequently involves more than listing the features of the things to be compared and comparing the lists for overlap. Often, the parts of one thing must be aligned or placed in correspondence with the parts of the other. The quantitative model with the best overall fit to human data assumes an interactive activation process whereby correspondences between the parts of compared things mutually and concurrently influence each other. An essential aspect of this model is that matching and mismatching features influence similarity more if they belong to parts that are placed in correspondence. In turn, parts are placed in correspondence if they have many features in common and if they are consistent with other developing correspondences.