Promoting spontaneous analogical transfer by idealizing target representations

Trench, M., Tavernini, L. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2023).  Promoting spontaneous analogical transfer by idealizing target representations.  Memory & Cognition,

Recent results demonstrate that inducing an abstract representation of target analogs at retrieval time aids access to analogous situations with mismatching surface features (i.e., the late abstraction principle). A limitation of current implementations of this principle is that they either require the external provision of target-specific information or demand very high intellectual effort. Experiment 1 demonstrated that constructing an idealized situation model of a target problem increases the rate of correct solutions compared with constructing either concrete simulations or no simulations. Experiment 2 confirmed that these results were based on an advantage for accessing the base analog, and not merely an advantage of idealized simulations for understanding the target problem in its own terms. This target idealization strategy has broader applicability than prior interventions based on the late abstraction principle because it can be achieved by a greater proportion of participants and without the need to receive target-specific information. We present a computational model, SampComp, that predicts successful retrieval of a stored situation to understand a target based on the overlap of a random, but potentially biased, sample of features from each. SampComp is able to account for the relative benefits of base and target idealization, and their interaction.

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