Relations, objects, and the composition of analogies

Dedre Gentner*, Kenneth J. Kurtz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


This research addresses the kinds of matching elements that determine analogical relatedness and literal similarity. Despite theoretical agreement on the importance of relational match, the empirical evidence is neither systematic nor definitive. In 3 studies, participants performed online evaluations of relatedness of sentence pairs that varied in either the object or relational match. Results show a consistent focus on relational matches as the main determinant of analogical acceptance. In addition, analogy does not require strict overall identity of relational concepts. Semantically overlapping but nonsynonymous relations were commonly accepted, but required more processing time. Finally, performance in a similarity rating task partly paralleled analogical acceptance; however, relatively more weight was given to object matches. Implications for psychological theories of analogy and similarity are addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-642
Number of pages34
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Analogy
  • Re-representation
  • Similarity
  • Structure-mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence

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