Mammoth Cloning Reminds Us of “Jurassic Park” but Storm Replication Does Not: Naturalistic Settings Do Not Aid the Retrieval of Distant Analogs


Through asking participants to propose analogies favoring a zero-deficit policy, Blanchette and Dunbar (2000) elicited a profusion of analogies lacking superficial similarity with the target, and interpreted such results as evidence for retrieval processes unconstrained by superficial similarity. Through the use of culturally shared base analogs instead of idiosyncratic ones, we overcame two limitations in their study that preclude such interpretation. Our participants had to propose analogies to dissuade a person from pursuing certain objective. A movie seen in natural settings could serve that purpose. Whereas half of the participants had to retrieve it from a superficially similar target analog, the other half had to retrieve it from a superficially dissimilar one. In line with traditional findings, retrieval of superficially dissimilar sources was scarce and much lower than retrieval of sources maintaining such similarities. Results call into doubt the hypothesis that naturalistic analogical retrieval is less constrained by superficial similarity.

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