Similarity and the development of rules

Dedre Gentner*, José Medina

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

292 Scopus citations


Similarity-based and rule-based accounts of cognition are often portrayed as opposing accounts. In this paper we suggest that in learning and development, the process of comparison can act as a bridge between similarity-based and rule-based processing. We suggest that comparison involves a process of structural alignment and mapping between two representations. This kind of structure-sensitive comparison process - which may be triggered either by experiential or symbolic juxtapositions - has a twofold significance for cognitive development. First, as a learning mechanism, comparison facilitates the grasp of structural commonalities and the abstraction of rules; and, second, as a mechanism for the application and extension of previously acquired knowledge, comparison processes facilitate the application of abstract knowledge to new instances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-297
Number of pages35
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jan 1998


  • Analogical learning
  • Rule-based processing
  • Similarity-based processing
  • Structure-sensitive comparison

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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