The effects of alignability on memory

Arthur B. Markman*, Dedre Gentner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


According to structure-mapping theory, the process of comparison is one of alignment and mapping between representational structures. This process induces a focus on commonalities and alignable differences (i.e., those related to the commonalities). Nonalignable differences (i.e., those not related to the commonalities) are held to be neglected. The theory thus predicts increased focus on the corresponding information, whether these are commonalities or differences. In this article, we explore the implications of this claim for memory: Specifically, we test the prediction that alignable differences are more likely to be processed and stored than nonalignable differences. We present a study in which people made similarity comparisons between pairs of pictures and then were probed for recall. The recall probes were figures taken from the pictures and were either alignable or nonalignable differences between the pairs. The alignable differences were better memory probes than the nonalignable differences, suggesting that people were more likely to encode and store the corresponding information than the noncorresponding information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-367
Number of pages5
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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