Open and Sustainable Innovation Systems (OASIS) Lab working notes

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Title: Mental leaps: Analogy in creative thought


Year: 1996

Publication: no_info


Citekey: holyoakMentalLeapsAnalogy1996




Authors argue that concepts support the noticing of similarity between source and target in the first place - concepts such as "cause", and "attribute", allow for systematic mapping between source and target. (p. 23)

Good quote on the feedback relationship between concept formation and analogy-making:

quotes "Thus analogy helps to form new and more abstract concepts, which in turn help to see even more remote analogies, which in turn help to form yet more abstract concepts." (p. 23)

I think here for the first time I begin to understand what higher-order relations are: they are slots whose fillers are themselves slots-with-fillers, i.e., propositions. Example: A detective chases the hero, who runs away: chase (detective, hero), name: chase-2; run (hero) name: run-2; cause (chase-2, run-2) (p. 29)

Interesting point here on a trade-off between satisfying the constraint of isomorphism in analogy-making and the usefulness of the analogy:

quotes "…an interesting trade-off emerges between the completeness of an analogy and its usefulness in generating inferences. The more complete the initial correspondences are between source and target, the more confident you can be that the two are in fact isomorphic. But unless you know more about one analog than the other - in other words, unless the initial correspondences between source and target propositions are incomplete - the mapping will not allow any new inferences to be made. A complete isomorphism has nothing to be filled in, leaving no possibility for creative leaps." (p. 30)

With the concept of mapping via abstract higher-order relations like "cause" (and here we can think about the whole range of functions in engineering, such as "transform", "import", etc.), we can begin to see why far analogies might be the most useful and produce the most interesting creative leaps. I think part of the story is that, all things being equal, the nearer the analogy, the greater the overlap in knowledge between the target and source, and thus the lesser the opportunity for interesting alterations to the target representation.

The "purpose" constraint of analogy-making as described here really maps well onto Ian, Ken, and Jared's work with open goals @tsengRoleTimingAnalogical2008, and also with Chris and Bo's stuff looking at the Opportunistic Assimilation Theory. The "purpose" constraint is an elegant heuristic for pruning the space of "slots" to consider in mapping source to target.