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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Developmental Differences in Transfer of Structure-related and Arbitrary Information in Analogical Reasoning

Karen L. Yanowitz.

Analogies can aid learners in understanding a new domain, yet may result in misunderstandings if applied too broadly. The present research examined transfer of two types of information in an analogical reasoning task. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants read source and target stories which contained similar antecedent structures. The source stories included two additional sentences which could be transferred to the target. One of the sentences was related to the shared structure, while the other was more arbitrary information. Results from Experiment 1 revealed that when participants needed to access the source information from memory, both fourth and sixth grade students transferred the structure-related sentence significantly more often than the arbitrary sentence. In contrast, Experiment 2 showed that when the source information was available, fifth graders were more likely to transfer both the structure-related and the arbitrary information than third graders. Fifth graders may have been unduly influenced by instructions given to participants. Experiment 3 illustrated that when participants were explicitly asked to consider the appropriateness of both the structure-related and arbitrary information as potential candidates for transfer, fifth graders were more likely to select the structure-related sentence as the most appropriate to transfer than third graders. The results of the present research begin to elucidate the limits elementary school children place on analogies when engaged in an analogical reasoning task and show that both structural factors as well as factors outside the analogy may influence how students use and understand the analogy.


Karen L. Yanowitz  (United States)
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology and Counseling
Arkansas State University

  • Analogical reasoning
  • Development of cognition
  • Learning

(30 min Conference Paper, English)