Analogical problem solving and prospective memory

Althea Bauernschmidt, Purdue University


Analogical problem solving happens any time we solve a novel problem, or target problem, by analogy to something that we know from another domain of knowledge, usually called the source domain. In this paper, I suggest that this process is very similar to the processes that occur when we remember to perform an intended action, as is the case in prospective memory. Experiment 1 was a replication of Gick and Holyoak (1980) and found that subjects who received a hint to use the source story were significantly better at giving an analogous solution to the target problem than subjects who solved the target problem without a hint or without a source story. Moreover, subjects who solved the target problem without a hint performed just as well as subjects who solved the target problem without a source story. Without an explicit hint to use the source story, subjects perform as if they had not read the source story at all. Experiment 2 examined the effects of instruction on spontaneous analogical transfer by using standard prospective memory, implementation intention, or retrospective instructions. Experiment 2 failed to find a significant effect of instruction on spontaneous analogical transfer. However, when compared to subjects who solved the target problem without a hint in Experiment 1, there was an effect of instruction versus no instruction. Therefore, while the particular type of instruction does not seem to matter, instructing subjects to remember the relevant features of a problem seems to facilitate analogical problem solving. Experiment 3 tested whether focal processing of the target problem would promote spontaneous retrieval of the relevant structural features of the source story. Subjects either did a Focal task, reading or generating a list of relevant features of the target problem, or a Non-Focal task, counting the number of t's they saw in the target problem. While there was a trend for subjects in the Non-Focal condition to perform worse than subjects in the Focal conditions, these results were not significant. While the effects of instruction type and focal processing did not directly translate to analogical problem solving, they still revealed several important characteristics of analogical problem solving. Specifically, encoding the relevant features of the source story is beneficial for future analogical problem solving and that, unless instructed otherwise, subjects will process the target problem focally.




Karpicke, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Cognitive psychology

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server