Cognition, Technology & Work

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 505–520 | Cite as

Differences between beginning and advanced design students in analogical reasoning during idea generation: evidence from eye movements

  • Juan Cao
  • Yan Xiong
  • Yan Li
  • Longfan Liu
  • Mei Wang
Original Article


In existing studies about analogical reasoning during idea generation in design, there is lack in quantitative and objective evidences showing the relationship between expertise and the analogy distance. To advance such a state, in this study 43 participants (beginning and advanced students) took part in a design task and their eye movements such as fixation time and saccades were compared. Besides, quantitative analysis of sketches and retrospective interviews were conducted to further explore the relationship between the analogy distance, the fixation level and expertise. The results showed that: (1) compared to advanced students who equally distributed their attention among the three analogy domains, beginning students fixed significantly more on distant domain, although they both used more near and medium analogies in their solutions; (2) beginning students markedly outperformed advanced students in both between-domain and within-domain saccades; (3) beginning students create more ideas and get into high-level design fixation, contrary to advanced students who create a small number of alternative ideas and perform a low level of design fixation. The results clearly offer more accurate and objective evidences showing significant relationships between the cognitive activities of analogical reasoning and expertise and analogy distance, which will bring greater clarity in using analogy in design and teaching analogical reasoning in design education.


Analogical reasoning Analogy distance Design education Eye movements Idea generation Design fixation 



This work is supported by The National Natural Science Research Foundation of China (No. 51435011, 51205262) and by Sichuan Science and Technology Program (No. 2016JY0237, 18ZDYF3189).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Cao
    • 1
  • Yan Xiong
    • 1
  • Yan Li
    • 1
  • Longfan Liu
    • 1
  • Mei Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Manufacturing Science and EngineeringSichuan UniversityChengduChina

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