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Accessing source information in analogical problem-solving

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Several studies showed that people presented with source information fail to apply it to an analogous target problem unless they are instructed to use the source. Seven experiments were carried out to assess whether such a lack of spontaneous transfer occurs because individuals do not activate the source during the target task or because they do not realize the source-target relationship. Experiment 1 compared a condition in which the source was activated with no cue about the source-target connection to conditions in which subjects were informed about this connection. Results suggested that the lack of spontaneous transfer does not depend on failure in activating source information. Experiments 2, 3, and 4 were devised to falsify this finding by activating the source closer and closer to the target and by focusing participants' attention toward the relevant aspects of the source. Experiments 5, 6, and 7 were aimed at stressing source-target correspondences by introducing surface similarities. All experiments showed that the mere activation of the source does not facilitate analogical transfer. Results suggested that two processes should be distinguished in the access phase of analogical problem-solving: Source retrieval and identification of the source-target connection.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Catholic University of Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy

Publication date: February 1, 2001


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