Analogy and Abstraction

Dedre Gentner*, Christian Hoyos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


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 (a) it is not enough to consider the distribution of examples given to learners; one must consider the processes learners are applying; (b) contrary to the general assumption, maximizing variability is not always the best route for maximizing generalization and transfer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)672-693
Number of pages22
JournalTopics in Cognitive Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • Abstraction
  • Analogy
  • Overhypotheses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence

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