Promoting Spontaneous Analogical Transfer: The Role of Category Status


Analogical comparison promotes spontaneous transfer by encouraging a more abstract representation that may be easier to retrieve. The category status hypothesis states that: if knowledge is represented as a relational category, it is easier to activate as a result of categorizing (as opposed to cue-based reminding). To investigate these two pathways to analogical transfer, participants were assigned to different study conditions: 1) standard comparison of two analogs; 2) standard comparison followed by a second comparison of two new analogs; or 3) a guided category-building task based on sequential summarization. Category-building showed a reliably higher rate of spontaneous transfer during an analogical problem solving task than standard comparison (numerically higher than double-comparison). Another experiment measured spontaneous remindings to cues on the basis of matching structure. Category-building showed a reliable advantage over both comparison conditions. This supports categorization as a novel pathway to spontaneous transfer by enhancing retrieval of structurally similar information.

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