Learning abstract principles through principle-case comparison

Julie Colhoun, Dedre Gentner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Learning abstract principles is an essential goal of education, but such principles can be difficult to acquire. Three studies ask whether comparison of a principle and an instantiating case will lead to better understanding of the principle. The results suggest that 1) analogical encoding can facilitate acquisition of principle when the principle is difficult to understand, and 2) when learning by comparison, specific details of the example that call attention to key relations can further aid acquisition. These results suggest that structural alignment of the abstract relations in the principle with the more concrete, specific relations in the case can constrain and clarify the underlying schema.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsVladimir Sloutsky, Brad Love, Ken McRae
PublisherCognitive Science Society
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)978-0-9768318-4-6
StatePublished - 2008


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