Prelinguistic Relational Concepts: Investigating Analogical Processing in Infants

Alissa L. Ferry*, Susan J. Hespos, Dedre Gentner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Scopus citations


This research asks whether analogical processing ability is present in human infants, using the simplest and most basic relation-the same-different relation. Experiment 1 (N = 26) tested whether 7- and 9-month-olds spontaneously detect and generalize these relations from a single example, as previous research has suggested. The attempted replication failed. Experiment 2 asked whether infants could abstract the relation via analogical processing (Experiment 2, N = 64). Indeed, with four exemplars, 7- and 9-month-olds could abstract the same-different relation and generalize it to novel pairs. Furthermore, prior experience with the objects disrupted learning. Facilitation from multiple exemplars and disruption by individual object salience are signatures of analogical learning. These results indicate that analogical ability is present by 7 months.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1386-1405
Number of pages20
JournalChild development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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