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Seminar: 11/12 - Dedre Gentner, Northwestern University

11:00 to 12:30 PM      at:  5101 Tolman

Why we’re so smart: Analogical Processes and Relational Language in Learning and Development

Analogy is a powerful learning process by which abstract knowledge can arise from experience. Carrying out a comparison entails a structure-mapping process (Gentner, 1983, 2003) that fosters learning in at least three ways:  first, it highlights common relational systems; second, it promotes inferences; and, third, it reveals potentially important differences between situations.

Most prior research has focused on analogy as a way of importing knowledge from a well-understood situation to a new situation. In this talk I focus on a different use of analogy.  Analogical comparison between two situations--even relatively novel situations--acts to reveal their common structure and to highlight relevant differences. I will describe projects in which comparison fosters learning in children and adults.


I also explore the connection between analogy and relational language. I will present evidence that analogical processes are instrumental in learning relational language, and that the reverse is also true: relational terms preserve relational abstractions and render them more accessible for future learning and reasoning.