Facilitating the Spontaneous Generation of Analogies in Problem Solving

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Conference Proceeding

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This paper examines whether an experimental treatment that encourages generativity and meaningful encoding can facilitate spontaneous analogical thinking, measuring the spontaneous generation of a relevant analog in solving a problem rather than the amount of factual material learned. Sixty-eight undergraduate students participated by reading the Attack-Dispersion Story (M. L. Gick and K. J. Holyoak, 1980) and writing a summary of each paragraph or the whole story or an analogy for each paragraph or the story. As predicted, cognitively processing the story in parts (paragraphs) rather than as a whole or merely rereading it facilitated solution of the test problem. The pattern of scores was in the expected direction (analogizing and summarizing greater than reading), but a main effect for mode of processing was not determinable from the data. It seems likely that subjects were not adequately skilled in analogizing and summarizing. Implications for instruction are discussed. Instructional strategies that engage the learner in generating summaries and analogies of subcomponents rather than just main ideas tend to facilitate far transfer problem solving. An appendix contains the story and test directions.