Differentiation by domain in young children's analogical reasoning

AbstractHow much does children’s performance on analogy tasks reflect general analogical reasoning versus specific knowledge? We asked this by comparing young children’s performance on conceptual (e.g., whole, broken) versus spatial (e.g., above, overlapping) analogies. We asked two primary research questions. First, does children’s performance correlate across tasks that depict conceptual versus spatial analogies? Second, if children complete the easier analogical task first, does that experience boost performance on the second, harder task? Successfully solving analogy problems in one domain could provide insights to children that may carry over to a new domain. However, if poor performance reflects an underlying lack of knowledge, rather than weak analogical reasoning, then additional analogy experience will not be beneficial. Results showed that children performed significantly better on conceptual than spatial analogies, and that the order of tasks did not influence performance. Furthermore, performance was not correlated across domains. These results suggest that performance on these two tasks primarily reflects children’s understanding of the concepts and relations needed to complete the analogies, rather than analogical reasoning.

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