Barbara Spellman

Pragmatics in Analogical Mapping

CO-AUTHORS Keith J. Holyoak
Cognitive Psychology

UVA Law Faculty Affiliations

Barbara A. Spellman


Theories of analogical reasoning differ in the roles they ascribe to pragmatic factors as a source of constraints on analogical mappings. The multiconstraint theory as instantiated in the ACME model (Holyoak & Thagard, 1989a) claims that pragmatic constraints interact with structural and semantic constraints within the mapping stage itself, in addition to influencing pre-mapping and post-mapping stages. Participants in three experiments were asked to generate mappings between non-isomorphic analogs for which mappings for some elements were ambiguous on structural grounds. In all experiments, manipulations of participants’ processing goals influenced their preferred mappings. At the same time, goal-irrelevant information contributed to many-to-one mappings (Experiments 1 and 2) and to the resolution of mappings that were ambiguous on the basis of goal-relevant information alone (Experiment 3). The qualitative pattern of results was successfully simulated using the ACME model, implementing the impact of processing goals as an inhibitory process of selective attention.


Keith J. Holyoak & Barbara A. Spellman, Pragmatics in Analogical Mapping, 31 Cognitive Psychology 307-346 (1996).

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