Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Auditory Presentation Leads to Better Analogical Retrieval Than Written Presentation

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Auditory Presentation Leads to Better Analogical Retrieval Than Written Presentation

Article excerpt

Research on analogical retrieval suggests that cues with object similarity to a prior episode in memory lead to better retrieval than do cues with relational similarity. We suggest that previous work may have underestimated the effectiveness of relational cues, because this work has presented cues and targets in written format. There is some evidence that spoken presentations lead to better memory than do written presentations. We tested this hypothesis using a continuous reminding paradigm in which people read and recalled proverbs that were presented either in spoken or written format. The spoken format led to better retrieval from relational cues, particularly at longer lags between cue and memory item.

Analogical retrieval is crucial for reasoning by analogy. Although there are cases in which people are given two domains and are asked to reason about one (the target) by virtue of its similarity to a second (the base), useful analogies are often retrieved spontaneously during reasoning and problem solving. For this reason, researchers have been interested in the conditions under which people are able to retrieve good base domains given a target cue (e.g., Dunbar, 1997; Gentner, Rattermann, & Forbus, 1993; Gick & Holyoak, 1980; Hammond, Seifert, & Gray, 1991; Wharton, Holyoak, & Lange, 1996).

Research on analogical reasoning suggests that a useful analogy between a base and a target occurs when the domains share systematic relational similarities. Relations are representational elements of a domain that link the entities, descriptive attributes, and other relations. Relations that connect other relations are called higher-order relations, and systems of relations linked by such relations are thought to be particularly important for reasoning (Clement & Gentner, 1991). When the relational structure of two domains matches, they are analogous. Most analogies involve cases in which mere are relational matches between the domains, but the entities in the domains themselves are not similar (i.e., they have little attribute similarity; Gentner, 1983, 1989).

Relational similarity can be illustrated using proverbs. The proverb "The swiftest steed can stumble" is relationally similar to the proverb "The greatest master is wrong from time to time," because both have the (relational) meaning that everyone, even the powerful, can make mistakes. In contrast, the proverb "A rough steed needs a rough bridle" shares only attribute similarity with the first proverb, because both are about steeds. The meanings of the proverbs are not similar.

People are quite good at detecting analogical similarities when two situations (or proverbs) are juxtaposed. Furthermore, people find analogous situations useful for reasoning. Nonetheless, a striking finding from research on analogical retrieval is that people often fail to retrieve items that are relationally similar to a cue when they have them in memory, even if those prospective analogies would be useful for solving a problem (Gentner et al., 1993; Ross, 1987, 1989). For example, in a classic study, Gick and Holyoak (1980) observed that only about 30% of subjects could solve an insight problem even when given a prior analogous story. Of importance, almost all subjects were able to retrieve and use the analogue when given a hint to use it This result suggests that the failure to use the analogous story from memory was a failure to retrieve that story rather than an inability to use the story once retrieved.

The existing literature on analogical retrieval can be summarized by two generalizations. First cues with primarily object similarity to an item in memory are much more effective retrieval cues than are cues with primarily relational similarity. Obviously, cues with both object and relational similarity are also effective retrieval cues, though not typically more effective than those with only object similarity (Catrambone, 2002; Gentner et al. …

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