Barbara Spellman

Analogical priming via semantic relations

CO-AUTHORS Keith J. Holyoak and Robert G. Morrison
Memory and Cognition

UVA Law Faculty Affiliations

Barbara A. Spellman


Research on semantic memory has often tacitly treated semantic relations as simple conduits for spreading activation between associated object concepts, rather than as integral components of semantic organization. Yet conceptual relations, and the role bindings they impose on the objects they relate, are central to such cognitive tasks as discourse comprehension, inference, problem solving, and analogical reasoning. The present study addresses the question of whether semantic relations and their bindings can influence access to semantic memory. The experiments investigated whether, and under what conditions, presenting a prime pair of words linked by 1 of 10 common semantic relations would facilitate processing of a target pair of words linked by the same relation. No effect was observed when participants merely read the prime; however, relational priming was observed under instructions to note and use the semantic relations. Participants were faster at making a lexical decision or naming a word on a related pair of target words when that pair was primed with an analogously related pair of words than when the prime pair consisted of either two unrelated words or two words linked by some other relation. This evidence of analogical priming suggests that under an appropriate strategic set, lexical decisions and naming latencies can be influenced by a process akin to analogical mapping.


Keith J. Holyoak, Robert G. Morrison & Barbara A. Spellman, Analogical priming via semantic relations, 29 Memory and Cognition 383-393 (2001).

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