Reviving inert knowledge: Analogical abstraction supports relational retrieval of past events

Dedre Gentner*, Jeffrey Loewenstein, Leigh Thompson, Kenneth D Forbus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


We present five experiments and simulation studies to establish late analogical abstraction as a new psychological phenomenon: Schema abstraction from analogical examples can revive otherwise inert knowledge. We find that comparing two analogous examples of negotiations at recall time promotes retrieving analogical matches stored in memory-a notoriously elusive effect. Another innovation in this research is that we show parallel effects for real-life autobiographical memory (Experiments 1-3) and for a controlled memory set (Experiments 4 and 5). Simulation studies show that a unified model based on schema abstraction can capture backward (retrieval) effects as well as forward (transfer) effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1343-1382
Number of pages40
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Analogical mapping
  • Inert knowledge
  • Memory retrieval
  • Relational structure
  • Schema abstraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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