Analogy just looks like high level perception: Why a domain-general approach to analogical mapping is right

Kenneth D. Forbus*, Dedre Gentner, Arthur B. Markman, Ronald W. Ferguson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Hofstadter and his colleagues have criticized current accounts of analogy, claiming that such accounts do not accurately capture interactions between processes of representation construction and processes of mapping. They suggest instead that analogy should be viewed as a form of high level perception that encompasses both representation building and mapping as indivisible operations within a single model. They argue specifically against SME, our model of analogical matching, on the grounds that it is modular, and offer instead programs such as Mitchell and Hofstadter's Copycat as examples of the high level perception approach. In this paper we argue against this positionon two grounds. First, we demonstrate that most of their specific arguments involving SME and Copycat are incorrect. Second, we argue that the claim that analogy is high-level perception, while in some ways an attractive metaphor, is too vague to be useful as a technical proposal. We focus on five issues: (1) how perceptionrelates to analogy,(2) how flexibilityarises in analogicalprocessing, (3) whether analogy is a domain-general process, (4) how micro-worlds should be used in the study of analogy, and (5) how best to assess the psychological plausibility of a model of analogy. We illustrate our discussion with examples taken from computer models embodying both views.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-257
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 1998


  • Analogy
  • Cognitive simulation
  • Qualitative physics
  • Similarity
  • Structure-mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Theoretical Computer Science


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