Evidence for Relational Selectivity in the Interpretation of Analogy and Metaphor

Dedre Gentner, Catherine Clement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


This chapter reviews three theoretical approaches to analogy and metaphor in increasing order of the complexity of their representational assumptions. Analogies discard object descriptions and preserve a relational structure. Mere-appearance matches preserve object attributes and discard a relational structure. Literal similarity matches preserve both relational structure and object descriptions. The chapter presents a propositional representation in which nodes or constants represent concepts treated as wholes and explain that predicates, when applied to the nodes, express propositions about the concepts. Structure mapping assumes that the comprehension of metaphors involves the processing of complex representational structures and that the matching process is sensitive to distinctions about a predicate structure. The chapter presents experiments that contrast salience imbalance and structure mapping. Structure mapping and salience imbalance make different predictions about the way people derive the meaning of a metaphor from the prior representations of its terms. People seek interpretations of metaphors that preserve relations from the base and drop object attributes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-358
Number of pages52
JournalPsychology of Learning and Motivation - Advances in Research and Theory
Issue numberC
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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