Commonalities and differences in similarity comparisons

Arthur B. Markman*, Dedre Gentner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


Similarity is a central component of many cognitive processes. Current research suggests that similarity is well characterized as a comparison of structured representations. This process yields commonalities, differences related to the commonalities (alignable differences), and differences not related to the commonalities (nonalignable differences). In the first study, further evidence for this tripartite distinction is provided in a commonality and difference listing study involving pairs of pictures. This study indicates that alignable differences rather than nonalignable differences are central to the comparison process by virtue of their connection to the commonalities. The second study further demonstrates that alignable differences count more against the similarity of a pair than do nonalignable differences. We end by discussing implications of the distinction between alignable and nonalignable differences for other cognitive processes involving comparisons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-249
Number of pages15
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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