Extending SME to Handle Large-Scale Cognitive Modeling

Kenneth D. Forbus*, Ronald W. Ferguson, Andrew Lovett, Dedre Gentner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Analogy and similarity are central phenomena in human cognition, involved in processes ranging from visual perception to conceptual change. To capture this centrality requires that a model of comparison must be able to integrate with other processes and handle the size and complexity of the representations required by the tasks being modeled. This paper describes extensions to Structure-Mapping Engine (SME) since its inception in 1986 that have increased its scope of operation. We first review the basic SME algorithm, describe psychological evidence for SME as a process model, and summarize its role in simulating similarity-based retrieval and generalization. Then we describe five techniques now incorporated into the SME that have enabled it to tackle large-scale modeling tasks: (a) Greedy merging rapidly constructs one or more best interpretations of a match in polynomial time: O(n2log(n)); (b) Incremental operation enables mappings to be extended as new information is retrieved or derived about the base or target, to model situations where information in a task is updated over time; (c) Ubiquitous predicates model the varying degrees to which items may suggest alignment; (d) Structural evaluation of analogical inferences models aspects of plausibility judgments; (e) Match filters enable large-scale task models to communicate constraints to SME to influence the mapping process. We illustrate via examples from published studies how these enable it to capture a broader range of psychological phenomena than before.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1152-1201
Number of pages50
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • Analogical learning
  • Analogical reasoning
  • Analogy
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Cognitive simulation
  • Similarity
  • Symbolic modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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