Systematicity as a selection constraint in analogical mapping

Catherine A. Clement*, Dedre Gentner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Analogy is often viewed as a partial similarity match between domains. But not all partial similarities qualify as analogy: There must be some selection of which commonalities count. Three experiments tested a particular selection constraint in analogical mapping, namely, systematicity. That is, we tested whether a given predicate is more likely to figure in the interpretation of and prediction from an analogy if the predicate participates in a common system of relations. In Experiment 1, subjects judged two matches to be included in an analogy: on isolated match, and a match embedded in a larger matching system. Subjects preferred the embedded match. In Experiments 2 and 3, subjects made analogical predictions about a target domain. Subjects predicted information that followed from a causal system that matched the base domain, rather than information that was equally plausible, but that created an isolated match with the base. Results support Gentner's (1983, 1989) structure-mapping theory in that analogical mapping concerns systems and not individual predicates, and that attention to shared systematic structure constrains the selection of information to include in an analogy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-132
Number of pages44
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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